Gauchos face a talented, speedy West Virginia squad

Big West men’s soccer made a statement last week with some impressive results.

While UCSB traveled to ACC Country and beat Duke (3-2 in overtime) and North Carolina State (1-0), back in California, Cal State Fullerton battled defending national champion Akron to a scoreless draw and Cal State Northridge took the No. 2-ranked Zips into double overtime before falling 2-1 at the Northridge Labor Day Classic; UC Davis got a goal with 30 seconds left in overtime to upset sixth-ranked UCLA 2-1. Also, UC Irvine handed Drake its first loss of the season, 2-1.

The results should give the conference a boost in the RPI rankings.

The sixth-ranked Gauchos (3-0-0) face another tough challenge this weekend as they host Big East schools West Virginia (2-1) and Villanova (2-0-1) on Friday and Sunday at Harder Stadium.

Friday’s 7 p.m. UCSB-West Virginia match is one of the marquee matches in the country. The eighth-ranked Mountaineers are very athletic and skilled, led by “the Shadow,” Shadow Sebele, a second team All-Big East selection last year.

“Friday night will be a test against a very, very good West Virginia team,” UCSB coach Tim Vom Steeg said. “… West Virginia will be up and down the field; it will be very, very exciting.”

The Mountaineers play an uptempo game. Midfielder Uwem Etuk is another fast and skillful midfielder who creates havoc on the field.

West Virginia has 10 starters back from a team that won a first-round game in the NCAA Tournament before being knocked out by eventual national champion Akron, 3-2.

Eric Schoenle and Raymon Gaddis key a solid back line. Gaddis, a first-team All-Northeast Region selection as a junior, is considered one of the top defenders in the country.

Up front, freshman Andrew Beven, a member of New Zealand’s Under-20 national team, has been the team’s main goal scorer in the early season — he has three.

West Virginia’s only loss was at fourth-ranked Maryland.

The Gauchos have won both of their previous meetings with the Mountaineers and will be facing Villanova for the first time. UCSB has posted a 6-2 all-time record against Big East opponents.

UCSB gets a boost to its lineup as defensive midfielder Machael David returns after serving a three-game suspension for making contact with the referee at the end of the controversial loss at Cal in last year’s NCAA Tournament.

For Friday’s game, fans wearing Santa Barbara Soccer Club jerseys will be admitted free.