After posting the Big West’s best overall record for the third consecutive regular season, the UCSB men’s soccer team has landed three major individual awards and seven All-Conference selections, it was announced on Tuesday.
The Gauchos are taking home half of the Big West’s major awards for the fourth time in eight years, with Finn Ballard McBride, Henry Davies and Leroy Zeller claiming Offensive, Defensive and Co-Goalkeeper of the Year honors, respectively. They are joined on the All-Big West First Team by defensive midfielder Sam Fletcher.
Midfielders Lucas Gonzalez (Second Team), Nemo Philipp (Honorable Mention) and Filip Basili (Freshman) rounded out Santa Barbara’s honorees.
Junior forward Finn Ballard McBride – All-Big West First Team, Offensive Player of the Year
After leading the Big West in goals each of the last two seasons, forward Finn Ballard McBride got out to a slow start in 2022 by his standards, working his way back into form early on after sustaining an offseason injury. In the end, the Sydney, Australia native would run away with his third straight conference scoring title, putting away 13 goals and five game-winners, both tied for second-most in the nation heading into the postseason. This is his third straight All-Conference nod and second straight First Team selection.
Ballard McBride went on a scintillating stretch during Big West play which saw him score 10 times in eight games. Three times over a four-week span in October, he earned both National Team (College Soccer News) and Big West Player of the Week honors.
His first goal of the year was a late winner at then-No. 24 Loyola Marymount in early September to start a three-game scoring run. On Sept. 28, he kicked off Big West with a game-winning penalty kick against UC San Diego and scored two more goals in a win over CSUN in his next outing. He would score in four straight games during his dominant stretch from Oct. 12-26, including three two-goal performances and the 87th minute equalizer of a thrilling 1-1 Blue-Green Rivalry draw with Cal Poly.
In his three campaigns with the Gauchos, Ballard McBride has now totaled 31 goals, putting him in a tie with Nick DePuy (2013-16) and Rob Friend (2001-02) for No. 4 all-time in Gaucho history. He is the eighth Gaucho ever to be named Big West Offensive Player of the Year and the first since DePuy in 2016.
Senior defenseman Henry Davies – All-Big West First Team, Defensive Player of the Year
Henry Davies burst onto the Big West scene last year as UCSB’s sturdy anchor on the back line and a consistent offensive threat whenever he moved up the field, characteristics he has only built on in his senior season as he earns his second straight conference Defensive Player of the Year award.
Physical in the air, consistently well-positioned, and calm and collected with the ball at his feet, UCSB’s co-captain has given the Gaucho faithful reason not to stress whenever he’s been involved in plays in the defensive third. Once again, he has started in every game at center back, playing a part in seven shutouts and chipping in with two goals as UCSB’s best set piece target on the other side of the field.
Davies earned his first career Big West Defensive Player of the Week on Monday, Sept. 12, after not only leading UCSB’s back line to great success, but being responsible for starting many of the Gauchos’ offensive attacks and scoring once in a 5-1 win over Utah Valley. Davies becomes the second Gaucho ever to earn the honor in successive years, while as a team, UCSB has now received it three straight times.
Junior goalkeeper Leroy Zeller – All-Big West First Team, Goalkeeper Player of the Year
Take one quick look at the 6-foot-5, 205-pound Leroy Zeller, and you may have an inlking as to why opposing offenses have had trouble scoring on the Gauchos the past two seasons. He boasts all of the physical attributes you can want in a keeper, combining great size and length to go with incredible reflexes and flexibility. But, it is his ultra-competitive nature mixed with his perpetual maturity in skill level, comfort and instincts within the position that have made him one of the best in the country and the first Gaucho to be named Big West Goalkeeper of the Year since 2010.
Zeller hasn’t missed a single second defending the net in 2022, resulting in his team ranking first in the Big West in goals allowed average for the entire regular season (1.00) – with an even better mark during conference play (.78) – for the first time since 2016. The most statistically significant stretch of his career extended through the first two-thirds of UCSB’s conference matches, when he led the Gauchos to a program record-tying six straight clean sheets. In total, Zeller helped shutout opponents for over 657 consecutive minutes of game time, stopping 27 shots on target in a row
Always counted on to make at least one big save a night, Zeller is tied for 10th in the nation in shutouts (7), 27th in saves (62) and is second in goalkeeper minutes (1620). He is the fourth Gaucho ever to win the award and earns his second straight All-Big West selection.
Senior defensive midfielder Sam Fletcher – All-Big West First Team
Team co-captain Sam Fletcher joins all three aforementioned Gauchos with his second straight All-Big West nod. A staple in UCSB’s lineup for the past three seasons, Fletcher has saved his best year for last, always covering a ton of ground from his central defensive midfield position with a relentless determination and hustle that has played a huge role in keeping opposing teams off the scoreboard.
The Phoenix, Ariz. native recorded his first career assist at Sacramento State on Oct. 12 on a gorgeous ball through the air to Finn Ballard McBride from behind the midfield line. Like Zeller, he improved on last year’s All-Big West Second Team selection by moving up to the First Team in 2022.
Redshirt sophomore midfielder Lucas Gonzalez – All-Big West Second Team
After being held out for UCSB’s first two games of the season due to injury, redshirt sophomore midfielder Lucas Gonzalez made an immediate impact, recording an assist in each of his first four games of the year. He earned a National Team of the Week selection thanks to a sublime assist against Oregon State to go with his first goal of the season.
Gonzalez scored his second goal of the year against UC Davis on Oct. 19. He would go on to finish tied for third in the conference with a team-high six assists and totaled 10 points (13th).
Junior midfielder Nemo Philipp – All-Big West Honorable Mention
An electric midfield player blessed with size, agility and a big leg, Nemo Philipp gets his first career All-Big West selection. Philipp had a huge week early in the season where he scored two goals from outside the box and tallied two assists in three nights.