Despite its whirlwind schedule — three important games in just five days — UCSB blew out the competition this weekend, beating #11 Duke 2-0 on Friday before pulling out a come-from-behind 4-3 victory against UC Riverside yesterday.
[media-credit id=16616 align=”alignleft” width=”250″][/media-credit]“I’m really pleased we put these 90 minutes together,” Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg said after the match against the Blue Devils. “The energy tonight was incredible. We just kept running at them and finally broke them down. It was our best collective effort from start to end.”
The Duke match brought 11,242 to Harder Stadium — the second-largest number of fans in its history only after this season’s UCLA match that saw 15,896 enter Harder.
With senior goalkeeper Sam Hayden back in goal after finishing his three-game red card suspension sustained against Cal State Fullerton, UCSB continued its defensive domination this weekend, allowing just three goals in its last eight games.
“I played alright,” Hayden said. “Good enough. I kept the shutout, which was great, but Chris [Hunter] and [Michael] Boxall did a great job, so I owe a lot of credit to them for that. We were a little shaky at times, but I thought I played alright.”
The stingy defense would relent eventually though, allowing three goals to slip by against UC Riverside yesterday. With a heavy mist and a turf field that Vom Steeg described as a “very odd and unpredictable playing surface,” Hayden and company had their hands full trying to contain a surprisingly potent Highlander offense.
“When we were down 3-2, we were in shock pretty much because that team was terrible,” Hayden said. “But we bounced back and got a penalty kick and Danny [Barrera] had a great finish. I’m just happy that we scored four goals. Our mindset is to get a win no matter how ugly it is.”
Still, Vom Steeg was able to work with a full roster for the first time in weeks with Hayden in the net, senior defender Michael Boxall back from a one-game red card suspension and junior midfielder Michael Tetteh back in the lineup. Tetteh registered 25 minutes against Duke after recovering from a hip injury that kept him off the field after the team played Harvard on Sept. 17 and scoring one goal on four shots in 81 minutes yesterday.
“I felt really good,” Tetteh said. “I’m grateful to God and to our to trainer Nina [Hsieh] because when I was hurt she did a lot of stuff for me and I did exactly what she told me and I just recovered very quickly.”
Despite Tetteh’s limited minutes against Duke, Vom Steeg saw enough to give him the go-ahead in the Riverside match. Tetteh delivered, putting up six shots — three of them on goal — over the weekend.
“I had a good feeling about him tonight because he has trained well and kind of got in the game a little bit but not much against Duke,” Vom Steeg said. “It was kind of on a hunch, and just knowing Riverside I knew he would have some opportunities offensively.”
Until Sunday, UCSB had not seen an opponent score more than a single goal in a match since Sept. 10. Riverside, though, not only scored three times but also held a lead twice — just to have the Gauchos come storming back each time.
“It says a lot that we could give up some soft goals and give away the lead but keep battling,” Vom Steeg said. “In soccer, when you give up goals you’re going to have this letdown and sometimes you don’t bounce back, but this team has always been the exact opposite.”
The Gauchos have the day off today but resume training on Tuesday for a road match against UC Davis on Wednesday. UCSB faces a conference opponent in each of its last five matches before the Big West Championships begin on Nov. 11.
“The goals we got tonight were probably as good as any all season,” Vom Steeg said. “Davis is another difficult place to play though, but for one night we can enjoy the fact that we were able to get through this week with a 3-0 record.”