After earning their first road win of the season last time out, the UC Santa Barbara Men’s Soccer team returns to Harder Stadium to host a pair of Big West matches. The Gauchos will welcome UC Riverside to Santa Barbara on Saturday, October 7 in a rematch of last season’s Big West Championship Match, then host an upstart Cal State Bakersfield side on Wednesday, October 11.
WHEN AND WHERE TO WATCH
Both of the Gauchos’ upcoming matches will kick off at 7 p.m. from Harder Stadium. For fans who are not able to make it to the stadium, both matches will be broadcast live on ESPN+ with live stats available through ucsbgauchos.com.
LAST TIME OUT
UC Santa Barbara earned their first road win of the season in their last match, putting together two halves of solid defense and getting goals from Nicolas Willumsen and Eddie Villeda to defeat UC Davis, 2-1, in Davis. The Gauchos now have four points in The Big West standings and are in a tie for third place.
WHAT TO KNOW ABOUT THE GAUCHOS (6-5-1, 1-1-1 Big West)
UC Santa Barbara has only lost once in seven home matches this season and are unbeaten in their last six fixtures at Harder Stadium, the best home record in The Big West so far this year. In addition to their strength at home, the Gauchos come into Saturday’s action with momentum after earning a win on the road at UC Davis.
Nicolas Willumsen scored his third goal of the season against the Aggies, matching his goal total from his freshman campaign at Xavier in six fewer matches. With Nemo Philipp missing the last five contests, Willumsen has stepped up as a prime goal-scoring option for the Gauchos and now ranks second on the team, one goal behind Philipp.
The Gauchos have also missed their captain and playmaker, Lucas Gonzalez, in their last four matches, but Alexis Ledoux has stepped into that role nicely. Speedy and confident with the ball at his feet, Ledoux can create chances for both teammates and himself, and he is not afraid to let fly. The Frenchman’s 21 shots on the season are a team high.
SCOUTING THE HIGHLANDERS (1-7-3, 1-1-1 Big West)
Defending Big West Champions UC Riverside received the most first-place votes in the conference’s Preseason Poll this year, one more than the Gauchos, but have only one win on the season. That lone victory came in their last match, a 2-0 win at home against Sacramento State.
Luka Lukic scored the game-winner for the Highlanders on Wednesday, becoming the first UC Riverside player to score multiple goals this season. As a team, the Highlanders have only found the net six times in 11 matches and have been shut out six times. They are yet to score a goal on the road this season.
Averaging four saves per game, UC Riverside goalkeeper Carlos Gonzalez is one of the busiest keepers in the conference, and ranks third in The Big West with 44 total stops. Gonzalez has played every minute in goal for the Highlanders this season, and his goals-against average of 1.36 ranks sixth, despite his seven losses on the season.
SCOUTING THE ROADRUNNERS (6-1-4, 2-0-1 Big West)
In a surprise after being picked last in The Big West Preseason Poll, Cal State Bakersfield comes into the weekend as one of only two unbeaten teams through the first three matches of Big West play and with only one loss on the season. That lone loss was a 1-0 defeat on the road at a San Diego State team which went the entire non-conference season without conceding a goal.
The Roadrunners haven’t conceded many goals themselves, allowing only six all season, making them the sixth-best defense in the entire country. Their back line is anchored by goalkeeper Brandon Limes, whose .850 save percentage also ranks sixth-best in the nation. Limes (and the ‘Runner defense) has kept five clean sheets this year, the ninth-most in Division I.
In attack, Cal State Bakersfield has no trouble scoring themselves, ranking third in The Big West with 16 goals on the season, behind only Cal State Fullerton and UC Santa Barbara. Junior forward Connor Mautino leads the line for the Roadrunners, with five goals to his name in 10 matches played. Defender Bryson Hankins leads the team in assists with three.