Preview of UC Irvine-UC Santa Barbara Championship Match
Links associated with this release:
This Week in the Big West - November 7-13, 2011
2011 Big West Men's Soccer Tournament Central
For the third time in four years, UC Irvine and UC Santa Barbara will determine the conference's automatic qualifier to the NCAA Men's Soccer Championship as the two combatants battle for the Big West Tournament trophy.
UC Irvine captured back-to-back tournament titles in 2008 and 2009 against the Gauchos and aims for the trifecta on its home pitch Saturday at 7:00 p.m. UCSB, which defeated Cal State Fullerton for the tournament crown in 2010, is looking for a repeat performance but this time against a UCI program that scored a combined eight goals in the previous two championship showdowns.
The Anteaters were 4-2 victors in 2008 at Anteater Stadium, then delivered a 4-1 blow in Santa Barbara the next season. UCSB had entered the 2009 encounter as the No. 1 seed and Big West regular season champion.
The two programs have dominated the Big West over the last six seasons, each notching three regular season titles. The Gauchos accumulated hardware in 2006, 2007 and 2009 while the Anteaters have earned supremacy in three of the last four seasons.
While neither squad needs any extra motivation for this match, UCSB got an extra dose on Oct. 1. With both squads ranked No. 7 nationally in various polls, the Anteaters snatched away a 2-0 victory and snapped UCSB's 16-match home unbeaten streak. Miguel Ibarra and Lester Hayes III scored a pair of second half goals, and Andrew Fontein posted five saves in net to record the shutout in front of 5,417 Gaucho faithful.
The two sides couldn't come into this match any more equal.
Both squads won six conference games. UCI has 15 overall wins, UCSB 14.
UCI is No. 8 in the NCAA Ratings Percentage Index (RPI). UCSB is No. 10.
UCSB is nationally ranked higher (No. 13) in the Soccer America poll than UCI (No. 15). The Anteaters are ranked higher in the other three polls, including No. 11 in NSCAA/Continental Tire and College Soccer News.
Statistically, both clubs are ranked in the national top 10 in goals scored. UCSB is No. 2 in the country with 45 goals while UCI is No. 9 with 41.
The Anteaters must contend with UCSB's three-headed monster of Luis Silva, Sam Garza and David Opoku. The trio has combined for 31 of UCSB's 45 goals, with Silva leading the Big West and ranking 10th in the nation with 15. Garza and Opoku have eight apiece. UCI can lean on a defense which ranks second in the conference in fewest goals allowed (20) and goals against average (0.92).
Balance more defines the Anteater scoring attack as six players have netted at least three goals. Christian Hernandez and Miguel Ibarra lead the squad with seven scores apiece. However, other players have joined the fray recently, with Cameron Iwasa and Tarek Morad scoring their third and first goals, respectively, in the 2-0 semifinal win over UC Riverside. Fourteen different UCI players have scored a goal this season.
Tickets for Saturday's championship match at Anteater Stadium are $10 for adults and $5 for students. Please call the UCI ticket office at (949) 824-5000 or click here.