In front of the 12,805 fans in attendance and thousands more on television, the No. 8 UCSB men’s soccer team defeated rival Cal Poly 2-0 at Harder Stadium Saturday on Senior Night.
With the victory, UCSB improved to 12-4-3 overall and 7-0-3 in conference play, becoming only the second team in history to finish the Big West season undefeated. Cal Poly fell to 10-8-2 overall with a 3-5-2 mark in the Big West this year.
“I’m kind of at a little bit of a loss for words because all you can do is hope you have that kind of night,” Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg said. “Those are nights you want to win, so the fact that we were able to not just win the game, but the way we won the game, was a credit to our players, was a credit to the work we’ve put in collectively as a coaching staff. It was a great way to end the regular season. I couldn’t have written a better script for the group.”
Saturday night truly seemed fairy tale-esque for the Gauchos as they defeated their rivals in front of the largest NCAA soccer crowd this season on Senior Night during a televised game. On top of it all, UCSB concluded a spectacular undefeated regular season, making this the game of the year for Santa Barbara.
“We made history, so we’re very happy about it,” senior midfielder Goffin Boyoko said. “We also knew our goal was to win conference, and we wanted to win it undefeated and we did. Now I hope we can go and, as a team, get our next goal and win the Big West tournament.”
After a scoreless first half, the Gauchos came out firing in the second half and controlled much of the match. Boyoko gave the raucous crowd reason to celebrate in the 61st minute when he sent freshman midfielder Drew Murphy’s corner kick into the back of the net with a beautiful header in traffic to give UCSB a 1-0 lead.
Boyoko was not done however, as he helped UCSB gain a 2-0 advantage in the 86th minute to ice the game. Junior defender Kevin Garcia-Lopez sent a through ball to Boyoko who then crossed it to Charlie Miller as the sophomore forward sent a shot past a diving Cal Poly goalkeeper to ensure UCSB would come away victorious on such a special night.
“The fans did a great job coming out, and so we came prepared to make sure we got a win and to enjoy the moment,” senior defensive midfielder Fifi Baiden said. “It’s not every time that you get that kind of atmosphere. We really appreciate the opportunity and we felt this was a moment we had to get the win to enjoy with our fans.”
Cal Poly lost its second consecutive match and finished in third place in the Big West North. The Mustangs will play at Cal State Northridge Tuesday in the Big West Conference Quarterfinals.
Santa Barbara receives a first-round bye as North Division Champions and will host the winner of Cal Poly and Northridge on Friday in the Big West Semifinals.
In what has already been an incredible and historic season for UCSB, the Gauchos have a chance to further assert their dominance in the conference in the tournament. Saturday night was a time of celebration for Santa Barbara, and now they must prepare to further extend its 11-game undefeated streak.
UCSB next hosts a Big West semifinal match on Friday at 7 p.m. at Harder Stadium.
A version of this article appeared on page 6 of November 12th’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.
Photo by Eric Swenson of the Daily Nexus.