Last time it was a fiasco.
When the UCSB men’s soccer team battled Cal Poly on Oct. 19, it allowed an early goal and went into the locker room deflated and off-key. Fans were leaving, and even though the deficit was only a single goal, prospects were grim. But the Gauchos exploded in the second half, scoring three and shutting down the Poly offense for what would be their second Big West win.
“That one hurt,” Cal Poly Head Coach Wolfgang Gartner said. “We got too confident and weren’t playing our game. I think the boys thought they could just sit on the one-nil lead.”
But they couldn’t. Freshman midfielder Drew McAthy scored within three minutes of the second-half whistle. Two Gaucho forwards, junior Rob Friend and senior Jaime Ambriz, provided the assist.
Friend scored the game winner in the 62nd minute off a header into the side net. The Cal Poly offense that had previously been lethargic was given new purpose and started attacking again. But when too much energy is used on offense, there is not enough left for defense. The Gauchos got a final insurance goal with less than a minute left when freshman midfielder Nate Boyden fired a twenty-yard bullet into the back of the net.
This time the game will be in Cal Poly, and it is a necessary win if Santa Barbara wants to remain on top of the Big West. UCSB leads Irvine by only two points and has played an extra game. Irvine will make up the game difference this weekend against Big West whipping boy Riverside and then a match against third-place Northridge.
“Poly is a good team,” Gaucho Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg said. “This is Division I soccer, and you find ways to lose games. They started poorly but are coming on here at the end.”
Cal Poly does seem to be putting things together. After losing eight straight games, the Mustangs have won two in a row, one of which was against Northridge, improving their Big West record to 3-4.
UCSB, on the other hand, is 5-1-1 and has won three straight, but the last win against Riverside was unimpressive at best. After demolishing the Highlanders 4-0 the first time out, Santa Barbara recorded only a single goal on eighteen shots. The Gauchos will need to be more accurate tonight.
One thing that has been dead on the last three games has been the Santa Barbara defense. Coach Vom Steeg’s back four have played 270 straight minutes of scoreless soccer, including two games without key junior defender Neil Jones.
But the defense has not done it alone. Freshman goalkeeper Dan Kennedy has recorded some timely saves and is enjoying the three straight shutouts. But like the rest of the Gauchos, Kennedy is wary of the Mustangs.
“Coach says to always take the other team seriously,” Kennedy said. “They scored really fast last game, and we can’t slip like [we did the first time] again.”