Coach Tim Vom Steeg is convinced his UCSB Gauchos have the talent to knock off top-ranked Wake Forest in their soccer showdown at Harder Stadium today (Sun., Sept. 21), but he is unsure of their cohesiveness six games into the season.

“It’s like we’re on 15 different pages,” Vom Steeg said after the Gauchos (4-2) ended a two-game losing streak by defeating Evansville 4-2 on Thursday night. “We’ve got a bunch of new players from Ireland, Colorado, Southern California … after 12 days of practice, [we] throw them on the field.”

The Gauchos got the season off to a good start, winning their first three games, but on the East Coast they gave up six goals in losing to Rutgers and Colombia. Against Evansville’s Purple Aces, UCSB was tied 2-2 before scoring twice in the last 17 minutes. Martin Hedevag, a 6’2″ junior from Sweden, headed the tie-breaking goal off a corner kick from freshman Danny Barrera. Senior forward Chris Pontius added an insurance goal, his second of the game and fifth of the season. Freshman Bryan Dominguez tallied his first goal as a Gaucho on a 30-yard blast that found the net after Evansville’s goalkeeper got a piece of it, but not enough to knock it off target.

UCSB took 21 other shots in the game, spraying most of them wide or over the goal. Vom Steeg does not expect the Gauchos to get nearly so many chances against Wake Forest, which is proficient at controlling the ball. And he is concerned that their defense has yielded a high percentage of goals to the opposition – Columbia three scores on just seven shots; Evansville two out of eight.

“Give Wake Forest eight chances, they’ll score eight goals,” Vom Steeg said.

Wake Forest is 5-0, outscoring its opponents 14-1. The Demon Deacons have a deadly shooter in 6’1″ senior forward Marcus Tracy. He was named the most outstanding offensive player in last year’s College Cup after Wake Forest won the NCAA title, and so far this season he has collected five goals.

The Demon Deacons pounded Atlantic Coast Conference foe Clemson 5-0 in their last outing. They boast a 32-match unbeaten streak against non-conference opponents, the longest such streak in college soccer, going back to 2005. Included in that streak is a 0-0 tie against UCSB in the 2006 College Cup. The Gauchos won a penalty-kick shootout 4-3 and advanced to the championship match, where they beat UCLA 2-1. A loss to Ohio State in last year’s NCAA tournament denied UCSB an opportunity for a rematch against the Demon Deacons.

Sunday’s 6 p.m. showdown between the last two national champs is one of the highlights of the college soccer season and should draw a large crowd, with UCSB’s students arriving this weekend for the fall quarter. Officials announced that Stadium Road will be closed at 5 p.m. Spectators arriving later will have to park in outlying campus lots.

Beach Volleyball

Santa Barbara’s Phil Dalhausser and Todd Rogers are two wins away from a $100,000 payout Sunday at the AVP’s Manhattan Beach Open, the first $1 million beach volleyball tournament.

Dalhausser/Rogers hope to follow in the footsteps of fellow Olympic champions Misty May-Treanor/Kerri Walsh, who won the women’s title Saturday. They got a bit of revenge against Jennifer Boss/April Ross, the team that ousted them in the semifinals of the Santa Barbara tournament two weeks ago, and knocked them out of the winner’s bracket early Saturday. May-Treanor/Walsh fought their way back into the final and defeated Boss/Ross 21-18 and 21-16.

Six teams remain in contention for the men’s title. The pairs that went unscathed through four rounds of the winner’s bracket are Dalhausser/Rogers, the top seeds and two-time defending champions, and sixth-seeded Matt Fuerbringer/Casey Jennings. Dax Holdren/Will Strickland, the only team to take a game off Dalhausser/Rogers, finished in a tie for seventh and collected $22,000.

The men’s final next to the Manhattan Beach pier is scheduled at 2:30 p.m.


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