The Gauchos rebounded from a slow start against Riverside Wednesday night to beat the Highlanders 5-0 at Harder Stadium. The Gauchos improved to 2-0-0 in the Big West, and 10-1-0 overall.
“It was a sloppy game,” senior forward Rob Friend said. “We seem to get going once we get that first goal.”
The Highlanders started the game aggressively and put constant pressure on the UCSB defense. But sophomore goalkeeper Dan Kennedy held his own, and the Gaucho defense weathered the Highlanders’ threats.
“We knew they would come out tough,” sophomore forward Drew McAthy said. “Teams are going to be coming after us.”
Late in the half, UCSB finally started to put the pressure on Riverside and at 37:41 Friend put in a header on a pass from junior midfielder David McGill. The goal was Friend’s 12th of the season, which leads the Big West.
“McGill got a good cross and I put it in,” Friend said.
The Highlanders were never able to recover. At 42:15 McAthy scored on a pass from junior midfielder Memo Arzate. This put the Gauchos ahead 2-0 at the half, also putting a dagger into any hopes of a Riverside upset. McAthy would later add another goal.
The Gauchos continued their surge after the half, and at 53:17 junior midfielder Neil Jones put in a goal to give the Gauchos a 3-0 lead. Friend and junior forward Gene Deering assisted on the play.
“Gene got a shot off to the goalkeeper and the shot rebounded back to me and I put it in,” Jones said.
The goal incited the Highlanders’ offense and it took several spectacular stops by Kennedy to end the ensuing rally. It was the Gauchos’ fourth shutout overall, and third in their last five games.
“We knew we had to make one or two big saves tonight, and he did,” McAthy said.
Santa Barbara, the nation’s #1 offense, then added two more goals. Deering scored at 70:18 on a rebound from a shot by junior midfielder Matt Kubota. McAthy added the other goal at 79:16 with assists from Kubota and sophomore forward Matt Bly.
The Gauchos did not come out of the game unscathed, however. Friend re-injured his ankle 18 minutes into the second half.
“I injured it last week,” Friend said. “I was only supposed to play the first half. I should be able to play next week.”
The Big West Conference men’s soccer player of the week has now scored a goal in each of the last 14 games UCSB has won. With this win, the Gauchos head into a tough match against Cal State Northridge on Saturday.
“We knew we had to get back on track,” Jones said.