Following a wet weekend on campus, Sunday afternoon’s forecast called for clear skies after the No. 24 UCSB men’s soccer team soaked up a home victory over the Hornets.
Santa Barbara extended its unbeaten record to 7-0 in Sunday’s 3-0 drowning of Sacramento State at Harder Stadium. The Gauchos scored three goals in an eight-minute flurry in the second half to knock off the Hornets. With the victory, Santa Barbara enjoyed its best start in 21 years.
UCSB out-hustled, out-ran and quite simply out-played the Hornets for 90 minutes. The Gauchos won virtually all 50-50 balls in the middle third of the field and out-shot Sacramento State 19-1. The Gauchos impressed fourth-year UCSB Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg with their hustle and tenacity.
“The key for us was just to keep with it, and I knew the goals would come,” Vom Steeg said. “Without a doubt, we have the fittest team in the country, and that showed today when we wore them down.”
At the 50:24 mark, junior forward Gene Deering took a beautiful pass from junior midfielder Memo Arzate and put the Gauchos on the board. Santa Barbara did not look back.
Just three minutes later, Deering fired a rocket at Sacramento State junior goalkeeper Jeff Gibson that deflected to Gaucho senior forward Rob Friend, who effortlessly put it away.
The Gauchos continued the blitzkrieg just four minutes later. Arzate led sophomore midfielder Jon Apilado with a brilliant ball into the right corner. Apilado crossed the ball one time to Friend for a beautiful header in the far left corner, just past Gibson’s reach.
“We knew we would have to step it up after not scoring in the first half,” freshman defender Alan Keely said. “We just went out there and rallied, and finished the job that we started.”
Arzate swiftly led the midfield all afternoon, recording three assists. Heading into the contest, the Compton College transfer averaged 1.17 assists a game, third best in the nation. Arzate currently has 10 assists in 2002.
“I’m just very confident right now,” Arzate said. “I am seeing the field pretty well, so the guys are just trying to get me the ball.”
With the addition of Friend’s two goals on Sunday, the Canadian National player has now found the back of the net in eleven straight games. The mark ties him at fourth place in the NCAA all-time record books.
The Gauchos have certainly stirred up an impressive offensive formula. Heading into the game, UCSB’s 26 goals were second best in the nation, and its 4.33 goals per contest led the NCAA. The Gauchos lead the Big West Conference in nearly every offensive category. Santa Barbara has out-shot its opponents 161-60 in the seven wins and outscored them 29-9 in the same stretch.
UCSB takes on San Diego State this Friday at 7 p.m., hoping to improve to 8-0 in front of a home crowd.