Cal State Fullerton at UC Santa Barbara
Saturday, Nov. 14 • 7 pm • Harder Stadium
All-Time Big West Tourney Meetings: UCSB leads 1-0 UCSB’s All-Time Big West Tourney Record: 5-5-1 CSF’s All-Time Big West Tourney Record: 4-2-1
The North Division and South Division champions bring their respective No. 1 seeds into Saturday’s championship showdown at Harder Stadium, with the winner earning the Big West’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
UC Santa Barbara is appearing in the Big West Tournament championship match after a three-year hiatus. The Gauchos made four successive appearances in the title match from 2008-11, securing the championship in 2010 against none other than Cal State Fullerton. The 3-1 victory over the Titans that year represents the only previous tournament meeting between the two schools.
Cal State Fullerton, making its third trip to the conference tournament finals, is 0-1-1 all-time, but hoisted the crown for the first time in 2014 after defeating UC Irvine in penalty kicks following 110 minutes of scoreless soccer. The Titans are attempting to become the first team to repeat as tourney champion since UCI won back-to-back in 2008 and 2009.
The two dueling head coaches, Tim Vom Steeg and George Kuntz, are ranked one-two in Big West history in terms of career victories – Vom Steeg with 210 and Kuntz with163.
Kuntz and Vom Steeg’s teams have combined to win six of the seven tournament championships – the only absence coming in 2012. Kuntz won four of those titles at UC Irvine (2008, 2009, 2011, 2013) and last year’s at Cal State Fullerton in his first year at the helm of the program. His Big West Tournament all-time record is 11-1-1. Vom Steeg is 5-5-1, and the Gauchos will be attempting to win the title in front of its home crowd for the third time after past appearance in 2009 and 2010.
The top two scorers in the conference belong to the two participating teams. Nick DePuy is the leader with 15 goals, which ranks No. 2 nationally. The Gaucho forward’s eight game-winning goals leads the country and ranks No. 2 in Big West single-season history. Sophomore Diego Sanchez became the fifth player in tournament history to record a brace as he helped the Titans topple Cal Poly in the semifinals. The two goals lifted Sanchez’s season total to eight.
CSF owns the league’s top-rated defense with a 0.83 goals against average. The team has posted a conference-leading 11 shutouts, all credited to junior goalkeeper David Rodriguez Elias. The 11 clean sheets by Elias is tied for No. 6 in Big West single-season history. UCSB freshman Justin Vom Steeg recorded his sixth shutout of the year in the 1-0 semifinal win over UC Davis. He has not allowed a goal in the last 217 minutes and 42 seconds.
ADDITIONAL TEAM NOTES
CAL STATE FULLERTON
Titans will defend their title! CSF beats Cal Poly 3-1 & will face UC Santa Barbara Saturday night at Harder Stadium! #TusksUp#RaiseTheCup
One To Go: Cal State Fullerton is one win away from repeating as Big West Tournament champion. The Titans attempt to become the second team to win back-to-back tourney titles. UC Irvine was the first, in 2008 and 2009, under then-head coach George Kuntz, who is now in his second season with the Titans.
Future Is Bright: Of CSF’s 30 goals scored this season, 21 have been accounted for by either freshmen or sophomores.
Shut Em Down: The Titans lead the Big West with 11 shutouts, and 10 of their 12 victories have come via the clean sheet.
Winning: CSF’s 12 wins represent the highest total for the program since 2000 when that squad went 15-6-1 overall.
Baseline For Success: The Titans are 8-0-0 this year when scoring two or more goals. They are 15-0-1 over the last two seasons under those conditions, and have not lost a game after scoring multiple goals since Aug. 29, 2014.
Not This Time: UC Santa Barbara avoided a loss in the Big West Tournament semifinals for the third straight year, and advanced to the championship match for the first time since 2011 after defeating UC Davis, 1-0, in front of 2,900 fans Wednesday.
Attendance Machine: UCSB, which should end the season as the nation’s attendance leader for the ninth straight year, drew the fifth-largest Big West Tournament crowd with the 2,900 who attended Wednesday’s semifinal. The record of 4,613 belongs to UCSB, set on Nov. 13, 2010 against Cal State Fullerton.
Home Field Advantage: The Gauchos are 8-1-1 at Harder Stadium this year, entering Saturday’s championship match on a seven-match home unbeaten streak.
In The RPI: UCSB is the Big West’s highest ranked team in the NCAA’s Ratings Percentage Index at No. 17, with top wins over Stanford (No. 5) and UCLA (No. 14), and a tie against Denver (No. 18). The Gauchos also have a non-conference win against No. 52 San Diego.
Sophomore Diego Sanchez scored two goals for Cal State Fullerton in its 3-1 victory over Cal Poly in Wednesday’s semifinal matchup of the Big West Tournament. In doing so, he became just the fifth player in the eight-year history of the tournament to record a brace. Only one hat trick has taken place – CSUN’s Sagi Lev-Ari on Nov. 15, 2013 at UC Santa Barbara.
Most Goals Single-Game - Big West Tournament
1. 3 Sagi Lev-Ari, CSUN vs. UC Santa Barbara (11/15/13)
2. 2 Diego Sanchez, Cal State Fullerton vs. Cal Poly (11/11/15)
2 Sagi Lev-Ari, CSUN vs. Cal Poly (11/12/13)
2 Carlos Aguilar, UC Irvine vs. Cal Poly (11/11/09)
2 Rafael Macedo, UC Irvine vs. UC Santa Barbara (11/15/08)
2 Nick Perera, UC Santa Barbara vs. Cal Poly (11/12/08)