Gauchos seeded 15th, host 2nd-round match on Sunday

UCSB received a No. 15 seeding and drew a first-round bye for its 10th straight NCAA men’s soccer tournament appearance.

The 48-team tournament bracket was announced Monday.

NCAA Bracket

The Gauchos (14-6-1) will play the winner of Thursday’s first-round match between Dartmouth and Providence on Sunday at 5 p.m. at Harder Stadium. Dartmouth (6-5-4) is the winner of the Ivy League while Providence (10-7-1) finished tied for fourth in the Big East. The Friars, who will host the game,  lost 5-0 to Louisville in the first round of the Big East Tournament.

UCSB coach Tim Vom Steeg, who watched the tournament draw with his players on the message board at Harder Stadium on Monday afternoon, was pleased with the draw.

“We like the fact we were able to get a bye and a seed, avoid that Thursday (first-round) game and obviously face a team that’s going to have to travel 3,000 miles across the country,” he said. “We like playing at home, we’ve been very successful at home.”

UCSB has lost only once at home in the NCAA Tournament (a 3-2 double-overtime decision to Cal in 2008). The Gauchos have a playoff record of 10-1-0 at Harder Stadium.

Vom Steeg is proud of the 10-year streak of NCAA appearances. The program  is among a handful of schools in the country with a postseason streak of 10 consecutive years or more.

“On everything we’ve done here at UCSB in terms in soccer, we understand players come and go — they go pro and they graduate; you have to put new teams together, you have to do it on the field every single year, you can’t live off the year before. The fact this is our 10th straight year is a credit to the players, the coaching staff and obviously the support of the administration. Literally,  that’s three recruiting classes. That, to me, is what is exciting about today.”

Senior defender Tim Pontius will be playing in his fourth straight tournament.

“There’s nothing better than that,” he said. “Every year you play to get in the NCAA tornaement and see what you can do. It’s definitely a nice reward.”

Goalkeeper André Grant will be making his NCAA debut after transferring to UCSB from Tyler Junior College in Texas.

“It’s very nice. That’s why I came here,” Grandt said. “After leaving junior college, they told you’d get into big games here, and in Division1 you have to get into the tournaemnt. UCSB is one of those programs in the country where you almost can predict they’re going to get in the tournaennt, so I am excited.”

This is one of few times in UCSB’s tournament history it will be playing a team from out of the region this early. Two years ago the Gauchos played Wofford from South Carolina in a first-round game.

Pontius and senior midfielder/defender James Kiffe were both OK with playing somebody new.

“It’s nice to not play a UCLA,” said Kiffe. “It is nice to play someone different. I didn’t want to play a West Coast team.”

Said Pontius: “We usually start off with a team from the West Coast and now getting team from the East Coast. I think that’s nice. I’d like to know a little bit more about the teams, but we’ll get film on them.”

UC Irvine, the Big West regular-season and tournament champion, got a higher seeding than the Gauchos, but it drew a West Coast opponent for its first match. The No. 8 Anteaters (16-5-1) play either West Coast Conference champion St. Mary’s (8-6-5) or Cal State Bakersfield (12-3-5), the runner-up in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, in the second round on Sunday.

A total of four teams from the West were among the top 16 seeds. New Mexico, the only undefeated team in the country at 17-0-3, is 10th and four-time national champion UCLA (15-4-1) is 13th.

North Carolina, a national semifinalist last year, is the tournament’s No. 1 seed with a 17-2-2 record. Creighton (18-2), which is guided by former North Carolina coach Elmar Bolowich, is No. 2.

UCSB is the same bracket as Creighton and would play the Blue Jays in Omaha, Neb., on Nov. 27, if both teams get past their second-round opponents.

Defending national champion Akron is unseeded and will play a first-round match against Northwestern. Former UCSB standout and assistant coach Neil Jones is the top assistant at Northwestern.

Louisville, last year’s national runner-up, is seeded 12th.

Rounding out the top 16 seeds are: Connecticut (3), Boston College (4), Maryland (5), SMU (6), South Florida (7), St. John’s (9), Alabama-Birmingham (11), James Madison (14) and seven-time national champion Indiana (16).

Alabama-Birmingham is the host for the College Cup in Hoover, Ala. on Dec. 9 and 11.