The Gauchos kicked off their Big West matchup against UC Riverside late Saturday night with the offensive-minded approach they showcased in their first conference game of the year against Cal State Fullerton.
With that mindset, Santa Barbara was able to outlast the Highlanders 3-1 to improve to 4-4-2 overall, and now 2-0 in conference play sitting atop the standings with six points. UCR falls to 0-9 on the season and 0-2 in the Big West with a last-place standing.
UCSB was able to hold possession of the ball for most of the first ten minutes of the match, being able to get through the UCR defense multiple times for shots on goal that were ultimately kept out of the net. The Highlanders offense was also able to put together some runs but were denied any good looks at the goal by a Gaucho defense that showed signs of an ability to defensively recover.
However, in the 12th minute of the match, Riverside sent a pass down the right side of the field over the UCSB defense where junior Eduardo Sanchez was able to poke the ball past Gaucho keeper Alan Carrillo, who was drawn out from his position. The capitalized opportunity for UCR gave the team an early lead, 1-0.
UCSB wasted no time in trying to get an equalizer, multiple plays by freshman No. 9 Rodney Michael and sophomore No. 13 Ignacio Tellechea lead to the Gauchos being able to take good shots on goal, forcing the UC Riverside keeper Vincent Morales to make plays in front of the net.
The unsuccessful scoring opportunities lead to UCSB Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg making changes in the 33rd minute, substituting No. 13 Ignacio Tellechea and No. 10 Noah Billingsley for No. 17 Derek Kryzda and No. 21 Alex Liua.
The newly brought in duo of Kryzda and Liua were quickly able to maneuver the offense and create some close chances for the Gauchos. It was in the 37th minute where Liua found himself in the right place to receive a bounce off a UCR defender that went left of the box. Liua was able to perfectly send the ball over the keeper’s head and into the corner of the net to leave the game all tied up at halftime.
It was in the 37th minute where Liua found himself in the right place to receive a bounce off a UCR defender that went left of the box. Liua was able to perfectly send the ball over the keeper’s head and into the corner of the net to leave the game all tied up at halftime.
The beginning of the second half did not bring an end to UCSB being able to find ways through the Highlander’s defense and it was Gaucho sophomore Noah Billingsley who put UCSB out in front. The forward took a shot from the left side of the box and floated the ball over the keeper’s head and into the right corner of the net.
UCR stayed in the game and would occasionally get through the UCSB defense, but the Highlanders were unable to find a way into the net throughout the second half and any shot on goal was either saved or cleared away. The Highlanders were more often finding themselves in their own end trying to prevent the game from getting too ahead of them.
The defense for the Highlanders finally lapsed in the final five minutes of the game, allowing Gaucho forward Rodney Michael to run past two defenders into the right side of the box and sending a shot past the goalkeeper that was buried into the left corner of the net, allowing the game to end in a 3-1 UCSB victory.
UCSB players Rodney Michael, Ignacio Tellechea, and Alex Liua continue to work well in the offense through making the correct passes and being able to finish the opportunities presented in front of the net, a great sign for a team looking to establish itself early on in the season.
The Gauchos next game is Thursday, October 5 at the Cal State Northridge where the Matadors will be playing the Gauchos at 7 p.m.