An unhappy combination of tentativeness and bad luck knocked the UCSB men’s soccer team’s record to 4-3-2 this weekend. A 1-1, 120-minute tie on Friday night against Fresno State paved the way for a disappointing 1-0 loss to Denver on Sunday afternoon.
Friday’s game with FSU began flawlessly for the Gauchos. They attacked from the opening kickoff, and after a mere three and a half minutes, were rewarded for the effort. Junior forward Rob Friend found the side net from twenty yards out, and it appeared Santa Barbara was on its way.
After the goal, the Gauchos’ offense slowed. The fury they brought to the field was still there but was used elsewhere, on defense and in the midfield. Santa Barbara would continue to play physically, but could not knock in another goal.
Fresno tied the score at one at the end of the first half when senior defender Curt Posey finished a left footer from ten yards out. Bulldogs’ senior midfielder Noah Delgado was credited with the assist, although the goal did not come from a direct pass, instead coming on a series of semi-accidental deflections after Delgado’s well-timed cross. Delgado has either scored or assisted on a goal in Fresno’s last six games.
The scoring would end with Posey’s goal. UCSB freshman goalkeeper Dan Kennedy played another spectacular match, catching several cross-attempts as well as minding a near-perfect net, save the deflected goal. Fresno junior Jeremy Proud also played well, making ten saves on the night. Friend led all players offensively, notching six shots and a goal that evening.
“This is another game we could have won,” UCSB Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg said. “Rob had that early goal, but we just couldn’t find the net afterwards.”
UCSB got a day of rest and then took the field on Sunday for its match against Denver. Santa Barbara would enjoy the return of senior defender and co-captain Reuben Bates but would miss freshman midfielder Drew McAthy, who was red-carded in Friday’s second overtime.
Sunday’s opening ten minutes were comparable to the game versus FSU. The Gauchos were attacking and after seven minutes had already mustered three shots: two by Friend and one by senior forward Jaime Ambriz. But again, UCSB looked tentative. It seemed Santa Barbara was missing the one pass that would become an assist or the extra touch that would free the forwards.
However, the Gauchos would continue to dominate. They kept up considerable pressure the entire match and held the Pioneers to four shots. One shot was on an indirect kick and therefore would not have counted, while another was at least twenty feet over Kennedy’s head by the time it went out of bounds.
But to Santa Barbara’s dismay, one of Denver’s four shots found the back of the net.
With regulation time winding down, it seemed Vom Steeg had started preparing for extra time. He took Friend out with eight minutes left, and the Gaucho attack quieted down mildly. But in the 84th minute, Denver senior R.J. Smith rocketed a shot into the upper V from twenty-five yards out.
“It’s really frustrating to lose a game like this the way we did,” said freshman midfielder Nate Boyden. “We dominated those guys and then they got a lucky goal at the end.”
Boyden’s feelings were echoed by his teammate, freshman Tony Lochhead. “It’s disappointing, really. We’ll just have to start focusing on Big West play.”
In Friday’s game against Cal State Fullerton, the Gauchos hope to end a 206-minute scoreless drought and begin their conference play with a win.