The UCSB men’s soccer team will play its final game of the season Saturday when the team travels to Cal Poly for a blue-green rivalry match-
up.At 10-5-3 overall and 4-4-1 in the Big West, the Gauchos are in last place in the North Division and will miss the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 11 seasons. However, Santa Barbara does enter the game with some momentum after defeating Sacramento State Wednesday 2-1 on the road.
“It’s our last game of the season, so we have to give it our all,” junior midfielder Fifi Baiden said. “There’s no games left to save our energy for.”
While nothing is on the line for UCSB, the Gauchos will have the opportunity to spoil the postseason hopes of the Mustangs, who are tied with Sacramento State for second place in conference. Cal Poly currently holds a 10-6-1 overall and a 5-3-1 Big West.
“We know we can beat any team in this league,” senior midfielder Nic Ryan said. “We’re going to go in confident. Ideally, it’d be great to go out of there with a win, but [they’ve] got their season on the line and they should be ready to go at home.”
The Gauchos will look to avenge a 2-1 overtime loss at home against the Mustangs that should have been a win for UCSB. With a 1-0 lead off an incredible diving header from Ryan, Santa Barbara got caught in bad positioning and gave up a goal with just over a minute remaining in regulation. Cal Poly then prevailed on a golden goal in overtime. “We have to get them back at home,” Baiden said. “We’re going there for one purpose: to beat Cal Poly. We have to win to get revenge because we don’t like what they did to us, beating us at home.”
UCSB will need to keep a closer eye on junior forward McKenzie Pridham, who tallied the golden goal, as well as an assist, in the last matchup. Pridham is Cal Poly’s primary offensive force and one of the best forwards in the Big West, ranking second in the league in points with 11 goals and an assist. He also ranks first in the Big West in game winning goals with six.
“Now we have [junior defender Peter] Schmetz back and that’s huge,” Baiden said. “Any balls going over our heads, he can win. We have to keep an eye on McKenzie and make sure he doesn’t get any chances.” Leading the attack for the Gauchos will be Ryan. Ryan has had a great senior season for UCSB, leading the team in goals with eight. He also ranks third in the conference in game-winning goals with four.
“Knowing it’s going to be his last game, I think [Ryan will] come out really strong,” Baiden said. “He’s playing really, really well for us this season. [He has been] huge for our team.”
Another focus for UCSB will be consistent play. In the last few games, the Gauchos have often given up leads in the last few minutes of the game or early into overtime. Santa Barbara will need a full 90 minutes to find victory on the road.
“Besides Sac State, overtime and losing the game in the
last couple seconds have killed us,” Ryan said. “So we know we have to go out and play a full 90 minutes. Most teams score on us in the last few minutes of the first or second half. To beat Cal Poly, we have to play a complete game.”
Finally, the shot count will be a key statistic for UCSB, which has found more success when the team gets forward and takes more shots. The team leads the Big West in shots with 17.56 per game and took 24 in the last game against Cal Poly.
“The more shots you take, the more chances you have to get a goal,” Baiden said. “We have to keep shooting, but we have to make sure they’re on frame. Even if the goalie stops it, you can get a rebound.”
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Alex G. Spanos Stadium.