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If every match of the postseason goes like last night’s, Waid Ibrahim’s pacemaker is going to need replacing. The junior forward’s blast in the 104th minute from 15 yards out beat Denver in a 1-0 nail biter, sending the Gauchos (14-4-3) to the second round of the NCAA tournament on Sunday.
[media-credit name=”Daniel Wade” align=”alignleft” width=”164″][/media-credit]“Waid can shoot a ball,” Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg said. “He got one look and he buried it. Ever since we started 0-2-2, I’ve gotten the feeling that somebody somewhere is going to get us a goal. I knew it was going to come.”
Ibrahim was an unlikely savior for UCSB, playing his first minutes since Oct. 2 against UC Davis. Vom Steeg touts Ibrahim as one of the team’s best shooters, which would have come in handy had the game gone to penalty kicks. Luckily for the Gauchos, Ibrahim had other plans.
“I’m just glad tonight I was able to go in and score that goal,” Ibrahim said. “I was sitting there and I knew that if I went in I would have to get a goal because I didn’t know what would happen after that. I knew that this was not the end of our season.”
Junior midfielder Danny Barrera notched the assist on the play, gathering a cross before sending it to Ibrahim with a shot straight at Denver’s 6’5” goalkeeper Joe Willis.
“I was running at [the Denver defender] and he hesitated, so I just poked it and it went right to Waid,” Barrera said. “He knows how to finish a ball. To have someone so talented and not be able to play, I’m glad tonight he could contribute. It’s really great for everyone that he knows he can do something for us in the last five minutes, I’m glad it was him.”
The box score tells the same story it has all year for UCSB: a possession domination leading to tired legs for their opposition and a late victory. Last night, the Gauchos put up 31 shots, which ties the season high they set against Cal State Fullerton on Oct. 6. Denver, on the other hand, managed just four shots, only one of them on goal.
“I thought we lost to a very good UCSB team tonight,” Denver Head Coach Bobby Muuss said. “It took a very good goal to beat us. We’re down a little bit, but I’m proud of the way the guys worked together, and I think it’s something to build upon. The future’s very bright for us right now.”
Now the Gauchos’ focus turns to Sunday, when they travel north to take on UC Berkeley, which had a first-round bye. After last night’s marathon match, fatigue could pose a challenge to the team, with the added challenge of forecasted rain and temperatures dipping into the 40s.
“It will be a test of us to go up there and go find something,” Vom Steeg said. “Now you’ve been tested, you’ve tasted defeat right in front of you and you found a way to win a game. We go up to Cal with very little to lose. We know we can play with anybody.”
The Golden Bears (12-2-3) hold a 15-11-3 record against UCSB in the all-time series, with the last meeting between the two ending in a 3-2 double overtime Cal victory in 2008. The squad, like Denver, fields a strong defense, one that has given up only 13 goals all year.
“I’m fairly familiar with Cal,” Vom Steeg said. “The names, numbers and faces will change, but how they play really does not. They’re very good in the back, very disciplined and have a very good goalie. That’s Cal.”
Kickoff on Sunday is set for 1:30 p.m.