On Friday, the UCSB men’s soccer team snatched its eighth season-opener in a row, this year against previously unbeaten St. John’s. With a 2-0 victory and consequent 1-0 non-conference record, Santa Barbara now flaunts two shutouts in its early matchups, the last being a lofty exhibition win against Westmont College.
Rookie forward Carter Clemmenson marked the first goal of the 2018 season—and of his own UCSB career. Clemmenson’s goal was later followed by a goal courtesy of second-year forward Rodney Michael, each contributing to their team’s success.
The Red Storm’s fall to the Gauchos was the first of its kind in the competitors’ three-game history, and the mark of defeat lies in their now 0-1 record.
In pursuit of redemption following last year’s 2-1 upset, the 2018 Santa Barbara squad appeared confident and prepared, played swiftly, and came ready to attack.
Up to the final minutes of the first half, however, the game remained in a deadlock as both teams struggled to take control of the field. Though Santa Barbara out-shot its competitor 6-3 during the dry spell, the closest the team got to scoring came at the hands—or rather, feet— of junior forward Noah Billingsley whose shot was blocked by opposing goalie Lenny Wilson in the 22nd minute.
However, following a pivotal substitution replacing Rodney Michael with the freshman Clemmenson, the Gauchos finally secured a lead in the 40th minute. Off a throw in delivered by defender Hunter Ashworth, Clemmenson headed the ball into the back of the net.
Debuting in the first season game of his career at Santa Barbara, the Gatorade Arizona Player of the Year made his transition into collegiate play look second-nature. With two goals and an assist across last week’s exhibition match and this season opener, Clemmenson’s integration so far into the Gaucho frontline feels seamless.
UCSB’s offensive control continued into the second half, leaving the Red Storm shot-less for the next almost thirty minutes while they attempted to score twice more. In the 70th minute, sophomore forward Rodney Michael scored the ninth goal of his UCSB career in a breakaway assisted by teammate Sahid Conteh.
With five major collegiate accolades behind him including 2017 College Soccer News All-Freshman First Team and 2017 Big West Freshman of the Year, the Sierra Leone native shows a steadfast command of the field and a fluid coherence with his teammates. His performance against St. John’s only reaffirms his vital presence on the roster.
The Red Storm responded to their competitor’s goal, however, almost immediately. Tani Oluwaseyi, one of the seven St. John’s members to make their D1 debut that game, took a threatening shot on goal just seconds after his opponent.
In a true rookie vs. rookie face-off, Gaucho Ben Roach blocked Oluwaseyi’s attempt, a save that earned him and the rest of the Santa Barbara their first shutout of the season. Standing in goal the entire game, Roach deflected each of the total two shots on goal sent by the Red Storm.
With this type of rookie-and-returner chemistry and an opening shutout to show for it, the 2018 season looks promising for Santa Barbara. The Gauchos have little time for dwelling on their victory, however, as they make a quick return tomorrow, Sunday, August 26, against UC Riverside at Harder Stadium. The game will start at 7:00pm as UCSB will aim to continue their early-season momentum.