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Golden Gauchos
December 11, 2006
Unseeded UCSB completed its improbable run to the NCAA soccer championship
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December 11, 2006

Golden Gauchos

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Unseeded UCSB completed its improbable run to the NCAA soccer championship

IN OCTOBER, as UC Santa Barbara's men's soccer team was spinning its wheels with a 7--6 record, coach Tim Vom Steeg and his staff blew off a little steam. "We were really done with this group," said Vom Steeg, who told his team to expect major lineup changes if they didn't immediately play better. "We thought this group wouldn't have what it takes to win a league championship, much less win a league playoff game, much less win a national championship."

Vom Steeg told that story on Sunday afternoon in snowy St. Louis, shortly after his players had proved him wrong. Led by forward Nick Perera, who had a goal and an assist, the Gauchos beat UCLA 2--1 in the NCAA title game, their 11th win in 12 games since Vom Steeg's October rant. They gave the school its first national championship since the men's water polo team won in 1979. (The eighth-seeded Bruins, on the other hand, were gunning for UCLA's 100th NCAA title.)

The championship caps what had been a down year for the Gauchos, who hadn't lost more than five games in a season since 2000 and have become a perennial title contender. (They lost to Indiana in the final on penalty kicks two years ago.) Santa Barbara became the first unseeded team since 2000 to win the title. "For us, this is a big deal," said Vom Steeg. "This is a big deal for our town."

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