Northridge afflicted the UCSB men’s soccer team with its first Big West defeat two weekends ago. In the game, the Gauchos lost starting freshman goalkeeper Dan Kennedy for a hard foul in the box and senior midfielder Steven Sosa for his fifth yellow card. Both players were forced to miss Friday’s game at Riverside.
But their absence didn’t seem to bother the Gauchos, who put the Highlanders away 4-0.
The outcome wasn’t much of a surprise, however. Riverside is winless in both league and overall play, laying claim to a staggering 0-12-1. Yet UCSB Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg stressed that the Gauchos couldn’t take Riverside too lightly.
“This is Division I soccer,” he said. “Every team here [in the Big West] has good players and can win at any time. We just have to keep coming out and playing our game.”
And they did just that.
Santa Barbara got its first goal in the 21st minute when sophomore forward Gene Deering sent a shot into the upper V. He was assisted by freshman forward and midfielder Drew McAthy, who would later score a goal of his own.
The Gauchos scored again four minutes later. Freshman midfielder Nate Boyden received a pass from sophomore defender Neil Jones and put it away. The score was 2-0, and UCSB fans could sense the game coming under control. Junior forward Rob Friend was also credited with an assist on Jones’ goal.
The second half would bring more of the same. Jones, who had already tallied an assist, slotted a penalty kick in the 55th minute and put the Gauchos up 3-0.
The final Santa Barbara goal came from McAthy, who put on a dribbling clinic before finishing a fifteen-yard strike and halting all scoring at 4-0.
Sophomore goalkeeper Eric Stolhandske made his first start of the year for UCSB a leisurely one, saving both shots he faced. In fact, Stolhandske didn’t have to stop a single shot in the second half as the Highlanders could only manage one shot.
“It was a solid win,” Vom Steeg said. “Whenever you win a game 4-0 and dominate like we did, it’s a good feeling.” Vom Steeg also said the team was looking forward to its rematch against Northridge, its lone Big West loss thus far.
The Gauchos are 3-1-1 in conference play and currently hold on to second place in the Big West. They trail Irvine, which topped Fullerton with seven goals this weekend. The Anteaters tied UCSB in their earlier conference game this season, a game that saw UCSB tie things up in the 89th minute.
“We feel like we have a legitimate chance to win the conference,” said McAthy, who notched three points in the victory.
But the upper echelon of the Big West is crowded. Irvine and Santa Barbara have ten points, but Irvine has played one fewer game and therefore holds the top spot. Fullerton and Northridge each have nine points and are head and shoulders above opponents Cal Poly and Riverside in the Big West.