Heading into overtime against Cal Poly just two weeks ago, things weren’t looking good for Gaucho soccer on the Mustangs’ cramped field in front of a crowd of over 8,000 and national television cameras. Wednesday, it was just the opposite.
[media-credit id=16616 align="alignleft" width="250"][/media-credit]“You could see that Cal Poly had tired legs,” senior defender Michael Boxall said. “It was just a matter of time before we would score. You don’t really think about all those past times. The momentum of the game was in our favor, and we knew that if we just kept playing we would get an open look.”
Sure enough, sophomore midfielder Nic Ryan saw exactly that after freshman forward David Opoku — who scored the Gauchos’ equalizer in the 72nd minute — dropped off a ball for him inside the box, which Ryan put into the back of the net low and left to earn his team just its second overtime victory of the season, 2-1.
Now, UCSB moves on to the second and final round of the Big West Championships. Its opponent will be Cal State Fullerton, which defeated #1 seed UC Irvine in a 2-1 upset on Wednesday. Although the Gauchos have made each of the last two conference tournament finals, the Anteaters have beaten them both times.
“We’re excited about the fact that Irvine lost,” Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg said. “There’s very little love lost there.”
Since the #2 Gauchos are seeded higher than Fullerton, UCSB will host the final round of the tournament at Harder Stadium. This year, the squad is 8-1-1 in matches at its home pitch, including its last eight in a row and a 3-0 home victory against Fullerton on Oct. 6.
“These games are so emotional and there’s so much taken out of you that it’s so hard to bounce back in two days,” Vom Steeg said. “That’s been our struggle in the Big West Championships. It’s our third one now, and we’re 0-2 because we’re just wiped out. The idea of playing that game with our home crowd is really critical for us to get it done.”
The Titans, who boast a 7-11-2 record overall, feature Nick Posthuma in their attack, who has scored nine goals on the season. Sophomore forward Sam Garza, as a comparison, has nine goals of his own to lead UCSB. Look for the Gauchos to get up shots, as they have gotten up more balls than their opponents in 21 straight matches — an average of 15.7 per game — including Wednesday’s victory over Cal Poly.
Kickoff on Saturday is set for 7 p.m. at Harder Stadium.