For a while last Friday night it felt like the UCSB men’s soccer team was playing Fullerton all over again.
The Gauchos gave up an early goal to Cal Poly, a team that had lost seven straight, and entered the locker room down 1-0. But Santa Barbara came out poised in the second half and calmly put away the Mustangs 3-1.
The game kept the Gauchos unbeaten in the Big West play at 2-0-1, while dropping Cal Poly to 0-3.
UCSB came out sluggish in the first half; Santa Barbara was not connecting on its passes and looked scattered in the back. The sloppy play led to an early Cal Poly goal by forward Mark Jones, whose shot was deflected off the Gaucho defense and into the net.
After the score the intensity picked up, but UCSB could not seem to have any attempts near the goalpost. It took the Gauchos 26 minutes to attempt a shot, which was deflected off the net by a Mustang defender. They would get only two shots to Cal Poly’s nine.
The best UCSB chance to score in the first half was a near own goal. Cal Poly defender Barry Matthews misread goalkeeper Greg Blevins and almost sent a header into his own net.
Just as on Friday, Santa Barbara went into halftime down and off-key. And, like Friday, UCSB would come out strong in the second half and score early. Getting it done this time was freshman forward Drew McAthy, who sent a seventeen-yard shot into the lower right hand corner of the net. Senior forward Jaime Ambriz provided the assist.
With the score tied, the Mustangs stepped up their defense and the game became physical. Three yellow cards were shown in three minutes, all for hard challenges. But it would not take Santa Barbara long to score again.
Eleven minutes after their first goal, the Gauchos took the lead. Junior forward Rob Friend received a cross from McAthy and sent a header into the post. The rebound came back in Friend’s direction, and he weaved it past some defensive pressure.
“It was a timely goal,” UCSB Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg said.
And that timely goal gave the Gauchos momentum that they would keep for the remainder of the game.
With eleven minutes left, Vom Steeg took out the forward tandem of Ambriz and Friend, who were each involved in one goal apiece. Ambriz tallied his third assist in three games, while Friend’s goal was his third in three games. Vom Steeg replaced the duo with freshman midfielder Nate Boyden and senior forward Joe Hubay-Dies.
The combination would wait until less than a minute remained to add an extra goal to the scoreboard on a hard shot from twenty yards. Near the top of the box, Hubay-Dies passed to Boyden, who, after a few dribbles, sent a chest-high shot past Blevins, giving UCSB a 3-1 lead.
“Cal Poly isn’t a bad team,” UCSB Assistant Coach Rick Barker said. “They came out strong.”
But again, the Gauchos came out stronger in the second half and overpowered their opponents.
Friend was coming off winning the Big West Co-Player of the Week honors for a two-goal, one-assist game against Fullerton. His goal was his sixth in the season, a team high. “[Tonight’s goal] was a good one,” he said. “Not for the shot, but for the lead.”
Results from Sunday night’s match against Northridge were unavailable at press time.