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The UCSB men’s soccer team found itself in an unusual position this past Wednesday night when it faced Big West leader UC Davis at Harder Stadium. The Gauchos, a perennial first-place contender in conference, played the game ranked No. 6 out of seven teams in the Big West, yet were able to defeat the Aggies 3-1.
“We know we were playing a team that hasn’t lost since the last time we played them,” Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg said. “The interesting thing is that we just pushed them one game from us [in Big West standings].”
With the win, UCSB improves its record to 10-5-1 overall and 3-4 in conference play. UC Davis drops to 7-7-2 overall and 5-3 in the Big West.
Though the goals usually come from the front line of offense for the Gauchos, Wednesday’s match saw offensive presence generated from the back end of the field. Senior defender Tim Pontius was able to score two goals throughout the game for the Gauchos.
“At this point in the year we don’t care who gets the goals,” Vom Steeg said.
A free kick by Luis Silva at the 37:18 mark in the first half gave Pontius his first opportunity, and the Gauchos a 1-0 lead.
“It was a free kick and it just kind of slipped through,” Pontius said.
Just 4:30 before the halftime break, UC Davis seized its best opportunity of the half to tie the score. A low, streaking kick toward the left corner of the goal went untouched by UCSB defenders, yet was saved on a diving play by junior goalkeeper André Grandt. Grandt was able to tap the ball away from the goal and maintain the Gaucho lead going into the half.
Pontius’ second goal of the game was one of the greatest goals Harder Stadium has ever seen. With the UCD goalkeeper out of the box, Pontius was able to corrall the ball and send a high-arching shot into the goal from 61 yards out, just past the midfield line.
“It doesn’t happen very often when [the goalie] is that far out,” Pontius said. “He wasn’t anywhere close to the goal. I looked up and thought why not hit it?”
Less than three minutes later, UC Davis countered with an offensive attack from the right side of the goal box. A shot from 15 yards out slid through the Gaucho defense and brought UCD to within one goal with 24 minutes remaining in the match.
With less than 15 minutes remaining, UCSB was able to increase the lead back to two on a goal by Silva. Silva’s streaking run through the right side of the box was assisted by junior forward Sam Garza for his Big West-leading 11th goal of the season.
The Gauchos led the Aggies in nearly every offensive category. UCSB out-shot UC Davis 12-6, had a 4-2 lead in shots on goal and a 6-3 advantage on corner kicks. Grandt’s save was his lone of the game, and his 41st of the season.
With the win, UCSB moves to a fifth-place tie with rival Cal Poly in the Big West conference standings. Tie games around the league on Wednesday prevented the Gauchos from breaking into the top four ranking. UC Irvine and Cal State Northridge tied 0-0, while UC Riverside and Cal State Fullerton finished their match knotted at 1-1.
The Gauchos need to win two of their last three regular season games in order to place within the top-four teams in the Big West and make the post-season tournament.
“We gotta get ourselves into the Big West tournament,” Vom Steeg said. “We’ve got two big road games coming up and then Cal Poly, and we know what we need to do.”