As the clock ticked down on the UCSB men’s basketball game at the University of Wisconsin, it was clear to me that the night was only big enough for one statement game.
UCSB, at the mercy of junior guard Joe See’s wrist and freshman guard Alex Harris’ naivete?, realistically didn’t stand much of a chance overthrowing the defending Big Ten champs in Wisconsin, especially considering three of UCSB’s most potent weapons were demoted to cheerleading roles. What was important though was they never quit battling those cheeseheads.
The never-say-die theme continued moments later when the UCSB men’s soccer team took the field at Harder Stadium against U-Dub’s bumblebee satellite school at Wisconsin-Milwaukee. With the basketball loss fresh in my mind, every accomplishment on the soccer field was that much more precious.
Rarely were the Gauchos second to the ball, rarely did Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg’s defense misstep and rarely did the Harder faithful lose their faith. Sure, it stuttered after UWM forward Antou Jallow’s game-tying goal in the 77th minute, but hey, this was a position Vom Steeg’s bunch was familiar with and quite fond of.
Earlier in the year, against defending national champion Indiana, Santa Barbara established all the presence they would need for an NCAA overtime match. In the second overtime against defending national champion Indiana, freshman defender Andy Iro claimed all credit with his game-winning header. The goal was Iro’s first of his career, and Tuesday night, another UCSB defender would register his first career goal in grandiose fashion.
Pat Scott will graduate this year, his fourth at UCSB, but you can bet the UCSB coaching staff will beg him to stick around for another year to compensate for his redshirt freshman year. Scott scored the game-winning goal Tuesday night on a Tony Lochhead corner kick to send the Gauchos into that tasty Sweet 16 for the second year in a row, but the magnitude of this one probably surpassed the freshman’s shocker.
With the Gaucho Locos at their back and the nation’s longest winning streak in their face, UCSB did what is was supposed to do, but in college postseason soccer, that’s never an easy task. A bounce here or a call there, and before you know it, your season is over.
The biggest referee decision for the Gauchos this year might have come last night by virtue of indecision. On a Milwaukee feed to the box, Gaucho keeper Danny Kennedy allegedly hit a guy in the face in an effort to punch the incoming ball out of the box. While the UWM coaching staff was up in arms over the incident, the ref didn’t notice the UCSB action. Of course, UCSB soccer is familiar with going unnoticed, but apparently negligence and karma go hand-in-hand.