Soccer Going Up North to Face Big West's Best

After losing four of their five matches, Cal State Fullerton's men's soccer team is hoping to turn things around in the final five games of the season, beginning Saturday night with Big West Conference co-leaders, the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos.

"I think all the remaining games are very important," Fullerton Head Coach Bob Ammann said. "There are still a lot of things to be decided, and I think for us, we see it as we want to be included, maybe a part of the Big West championship, so we're seeing it as our second chance."

UCSB (8-6-0, 4-2-0) currently shares the No. 1 spot in the Big West standings with Cal State Northridge with both teams having 12 points. CSUF (5-8-1, 1-4-0 Big West) is at the bottom of the standings with three points.

"It's going to be a really, really big game," Santa Barbara Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg said in a phone interview. "We're tied for first place and they're going to come in really needing to win to keep their season hopes alive."

When the Titans last met the Gauchos on Sept. 21, they battled their way through a 2-1 double-overtime loss in their conference opener. Santa Barbara forward Nick Perera lifted the Gauchos by scoring the golden goal in the 106th minute.

Fullerton's lone goal came from forward Eugene Brooks who kicked in a rebound with less than six minutes left in regulation.

"I'm expecting the same kind of game," Vom Steeg said. "Fullerton is as good offensively as anyone we've played all year."

Overtime games have been the team's Achilles' heel this season as it is 1-3-1 in matches that go beyond regulation. The Titans' most recent match was a 2-1 non-conference overtime loss to UC Davis. CSUF won its season opener against San Jose State in overtime on Aug. 27 and came to a 1-1 deadlock with Stanford on Sept. 10.

"We need to learn how to win," Ammann said. "We're very young and that inexperience unfortunately has cost us the victories."

Titan midfielder Shay Spitz said the team needs "just that edge, just that little bit extra, and just that effort" to come out on top in overtime matches.

"It's just making sure that our focus is even greater and not being content on the fact that we got them to that point," Ammann said. "We need to have a little bit more desire and have the ability to not wait for something to happen, but to go out and make it happen."

The Titans have the overall advantage over the Gauchos as they hold a record of 22-19-2 in their meetings as members of both the Big West and the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation.

However, UCSB has the recent advantage by winning the last six meetings by a combined score of 14-4 with four shutouts.

Saturday's game is the first of four on the road for the Titans. They hold a 2-3-1 overall record away from home.

"We're not looking at it as a road trip," Ammann said. "We're looking at is as one game at a time."