With only a single game remaining for the Gauchos before they begin conference play, UCSB stands with an overall record of 12-4. The team suffered their most recent loss at home to No. 3 Stanford last Saturday, effectively ending its four-game winning streak; however, the Gauchos’ 12-win total is double that of any other team’s in the Gold Coast Conference (GCC).
Behind UCSB in the conference standings are Long Beach and Pepperdine, both sitting at 6-4 overall. Although Santa Barbara has played more games than its conference foes, three of the team’s 12 wins have come against fellow GCC teams (Long Beach, Pacific and Pepperdine).
UCSB has again moved through the national rankings this year, reaching the No. 5 spot in the latest week’s poll. After losing senior standouts Shane Hauschild and Reed Cotterill from last year, someone on the Gauchos’ roster was going to have to fill the scoring void left behind. Lucky for Santa Barbara, both Borislav Jovanovic and Ivan Gvozdanovic returned this season, and have been dominating the pool. The Serbian duo has been instrumental to the Gauchos’ success thus far, but it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone who followed the team last season.
Both Jovanovic and Gvozdanovic played a large role aside Hauschild and Cotterill last year, and have continued their impact. As of statistics last updated on September 11th, Jovanovic leads his team with 26 goals off 50 shots. In the Gauchos’ overtime win against Pepperdine this month, Jovanovic scored 6 goals, again proving his outright scoring ability. His performance earned the senior driver GCC Player of the Week honors for the third straight week on September 20th, a feat no other player has achieved in history.
Without a doubt, Jovanovic will be crucial to maintaining the Gauchos’ momentum heading into league competition, but the depth on the Santa Barbara roster is likely a pleasant sign for head coach Wolf Wigo.
Behind Jovanovic is the junior utility player Gvozdanovic, with 12 goals and 10 assists, but seven other players have combined for double digit scoring contributions, including redshirt sophomore Leo Yuno. Yuno, an attacker with only one less goal than Gvozdanovic, completes the triple-threat of UCSB’s offensive ability.
Another good sign for Coach Wigo is that the team’s four losses have all come at the hands of Pac-12 leaders: No. 1 USC, No. 2 UCLA, No. 3 Stanford, and No. 4 California. After its home loss to Stanford, Santa Barbara will get another chance against a top-ranked opponent this Sunday when the Gauchos visit USC. Despite losing to the Trojans 11-3 on September 15th, the Gauchos have both a shot at redemption and at avoiding a two-game losing streak.
Whether or not they can knock off the No. 1 team in the country, the Gauchos have plenty to be confident about heading into GCC games next month. And, with Jovanovic’s play showing no signs of slowing down, the team has a comfortable go-to option in crunchtime, as already displayed by UCSB’s overtime victory against Pepperdine.
A version of this story appeared in the September 27th print edition of the Daily Nexus on page 06.