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UCSB’s Awesome Autumn of Athletics

Gaucho Soccer, Volleyball, and Water Polo Have a Shot at National Playoffs

Finn Ballard McBride (13), a freshman from Sydney, Australia, has proved to have a nose for the goal by scoring nine times for the Gaucho soccer team. | Credit: Paul Wellman

There have been some bumps along the way, but overall it has been a fabulous fall for UCSB athletics. Four Gaucho teams could have a shot at the national playoffs.

Men’s soccer coach Tim Vom Steeg said his crew is capable of doing damage in the NCAA tournament, as the Gauchos demonstrated in their 3-3 barnburner against Stanford, but their situation has become precarious. They are stuck in third place in the Big West after a pair of frustrating ties on the road, 1-1 at UC Davis and 0-0 at Cal State Northridge.

Davis scored on a wild shot that caromed off a UCSB defender. Freshman forward Finn Ballard McBride responded by punching in his team-leading ninth goal. But without playmakers Rodney Michael (injured knee in a home loss to UC Irvine), Thibault Candia (who went out in the Davis game), and Ameyawu Muntari (muscle strain at CSUN), the Gauchos went scoreless the rest of the week. “We need that one goal,” Vom Steeg said. “That’s where Rodney comes in.”

Photo: CourtesyUCSB “felt the Bern” when Donn Bernstein was the first Gaucho sports information director (left). He later became an ABC Sports executive.

Their defense has held up. UCSB has played six overtime games, four of them ending in deadlocks. Sophomore goalkeeper Ben Roach leads the NCAA in minutes played — 1,629 (more than 95 per game) — and has registered nine shutouts.

Now, Vom Steeg said, “We need a win at Cal Poly,” not an easy task on a narrow field with over 11,000 fans egging on the Mustangs. Depending on the outcome Saturday night at San Luis Obispo and at other conference matches, the Gauchos could be hosting a Big West quarterfinal match (Nov. 6) or a semifinal match (Nov. 9).

The Gaucho women’s soccer team could sew up a berth in the conference tournament this weekend when it concludes the regular season by hosting UC Riverside (7 p.m. Friday) and UC Irvine (2 p.m. Sunday). Senior forward Shaelan Murison scored her second hat trick in a 4-1 win at Hawaii and is tied for fourth in the nation with 16 goals this season.

In women’s volleyball, the Gauchos remained tied for first place with Cal Poly after sweeping UC Davis and UC Riverside last week, with senior Lindsey Ruddins cracking a .500 hitting percentage in both matches. They had an 18-2 record with seven matches to play in the regular season.

After starting the season on a 16-game winning streak, the Gaucho men’s water polo team suffered five defeats by a total of eight points before downing Long Beach State, 11-10, and Cal, 13-10, in overtime, last weekend. UCSB is still ranked in the nation’s top four.

WESTMONT SOCCER:  Heading into Saturday’s Senior Day games against Arizona Christian, starting at noon, the Warrior men and women both hold the top spots in the Golden State Athletic Conference standings.

NEW AND IMPROVED:  From chair-back seating in the reserved section of the Thunderdome to a lighted baseball diamond at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium, UCSB is trying to bring more fans to Gaucho basketball and baseball games. The men’s hoop team, picked to finish second to UC Irvine in the Big West preseason media poll, tips off the season at home next Wednesday night, November 6, against Jackson State. Four days later, the Gauchos play a Sunday afternoon game at UCLA.

UCSB baseball boosters were on hand last Saturday at sunset, when the new lights were turned on before a three-inning practice game. The long-awaited improvement will enable more people to watch the Gauchos play on weeknights, especially the Friday contests that open each weekend series.

BERNIE:  Donn Bernstein was an unforgettable, one-of-a-kind character, a bombastic sports information director at UCSB from 1964 to 1972, and later a respected ABC Sports media director for NCAA football. The weekend after he died in New York on October 16, at age 83, he was given a shout-out on several national football telecasts.

Bernie, as he was known, remained a great friend and supporter of the Gauchos. There will be a celebration of his life at UCSB on Saturday, April 25, 2020, at the annual All-Gaucho Reunion, an event that Bernie regularly attended.

All he wanted in the way of a memorial was for his friends to gather at McSorley’s Old Ale House, the iconic New York saloon where Bernie celebrated his milestone birthdays. That I will do next month. Look for my “In Memoriam” at a later date.

CATCHING UP:  Marcie’s Mermaids (featured here Sept. 5), concerned about conditions in the Santa Barbara Channel, chose not to swim a relay from Santa Cruz Island to the mainland but swam a similar distance, 19 miles, along the shore on Sept. 22. Rachel Horn said they raised almost $10,000 for Heal the Ocean in memory of Marcie Kjoller.

Hannah Jordan (Oct. 17) continued to excel as a cyclist who has to ride with a liquid feeding tube. She was only female junior to complete the World Hillclimb Championships on Gibraltar Road.

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