UCSB Soccer opens season hosting Stanford

Drew Murphy is one of three Gauchos named to the Big West Preseason All-Conference Team. (Presidio Sports Photo)

Drew Murphy is one of three Gauchos, along with Nick DePuy and Ismaila Jome, named to the Big West Preseason All-Conference Team. (Presidio Sports Photo)

UCSB isn’t wasting any time this season testing itself as the Gauchos host No. 5 Stanford at Harder Stadium on Friday in their season opener.

UCSB has traditionally performed well under head coach Tim Vom Steeg in its openers. The Gauchos have gone 12-2-2 in such games during Vom Steeg’s tenure. In the past nine years, they have lost just one of their openers, an overtime loss to Cal State Bakersfield in 2010. UCSB has won its past four openers (at Northwestern, at LMU, vs. Seattle, at College of Charleston), outscoring its opponents 11-3 in those games.

Ranked 17th in the Soccer America preseason poll, UCSB is a near-unanimous selection to win the Big West North Division. Receiving seven of eight first place votes, the Gauchos have now been picked to win the conference in 14 consecutive seasons (North Division since ’12).

UCSB and Stanford met in Palo Alto last year, and the Cardinal scored three goals – all off set pieces – in the game’s opening 12 minutes en route to a 4-1 win on Pac-12 TV. Ludgwig Ahl was the lone goalscorer for UCSB, which hasn’t beaten Stanford since the 2004 season, going 0-3-1 in the four contests since.

Friday night’s season-opener against Stanford will be the nightcap of a UCSB soccer doubleheader, as the women’s soccer team will host its first home game of the season at 5 PM on Friday. One ticket grants admission to both games.

The Gauchos kicked off the 2015 season by defeating crosstown rival Westmont 4-1 in the annual exhibition contest between the two schoolslast Saturday. Forward Nick DePuy led the charge offensively with a brace, while Drew Murphy and newcomer Kevin Feucht added goals as well. Murphy’s sixth-minute penalty kick conversion opened the scoring.

In the 2015 season, the UCSB men’s soccer program will try to maintain a number of impressive streaks. The Gauchos will be looking to lead the nation in attendance for the ninth consecutive season, record 10 or more wins for the 15th straight season, and reach the postseason for the 13th time in 14 years.

UCSB went 10-7-3 last season, finishing first in the Big West North Division for the second consecutive year. After going going 4-6-1 in non-conference play, the Gauchos began to gel as a team in Big West action, going 6-2-2. Key to that rebound was the ascendance of forward Nick DePuy, who scored 10 goals over the team’s final 13 games after being moved to forward. The 6-4 sophomore ended up being named the Big West Offensive Player of the Year. UCSB’s signature victory was a 1-0 win over UC Irvine, who was ranked No. 3 in the nation at the time, on Oct. 4 via a 35-yard stunner from DePuy in the waning seconds of regulation.

Saddled with a set role for the first time in his UCSB career, DePuy is looking to make waves after scoring 10 goals in just 13 appearances at forward last year, earning Big West Offensive Player of the Year honors. His goal output at forward translates to 15 goals over the course of a full season, which would havebeen the most by a Gaucho since Luis Silva had 17 in 2011.