At some point in time, all good things must come to an end.
The UCSB men’s soccer team (18-3-1) fell 2-1 at Cal in a second-round playoff game on Nov. 27, concluding the most successful season in Gaucho soccer history.
“The season was very exciting,” UCSB Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg said, “but there was a lot of stress to do something that hasn’t been done before.”
After recording their first playoff win in school history on Nov. 23, the Gauchos entered their second round game riding a seven-game winning streak. But Santa Barbara found itself in trouble early when the Golden Bears swooped ahead 1-0 in the 17th minute. Cal’s sophomore midfielder Mike Munoz scored on a direct free kick.
It was the first goal given up by a Gaucho goaltender in 410 minutes.
The Bears padded their lead in the 78th minute when freshman forward Pieter Berger scored on a breakaway, all but ending Santa Barbara’s magical run.
“When we were down one it was no big deal,” senior midfielder Dan Young said. “But when we went down two, we were beginning to think there was no way. We didn’t give up and tried to get it into overtime. It’s a credit to the character of this team.”
The Gauchos pulled within one when sophomore forward Drew McAthy netted his 17th goal of the season on a corner kick from sophomore defender Tony Lochhead in the 85th minute. Santa Barbara would pull no closer. The referees called back two goals in the match, adding to the Gauchos’ frustration and disappointment in defeat.
“Some games you get the calls and others you don’t. All you can ask for is for the ref to call it fair both ways,” Vom Steeg said. “What hurt us was [in Berkeley], they called a tight game. In southern California, the refs let a lot more go on. But they called it tight on both teams. We are a more physical team, which is a function of us playing hard, so it was unfortunate.”
Despite the loss, the Gauchos enjoyed a phenomenal season. The 2002 UCSB men’s soccer team rewrote the record books, finishing with a school record of 18 wins to go along with an undefeated home and Big West conference record. Senior forward Rob Friend tallied a Gaucho record of 20 goals during the season, finishing his college career with 31 goals in his two years with Santa Barbara. Junior midfielder Memo Arzate also burst onto the scene in his first year with UCSB, setting a team record with 18 assists.
“It was a great season,” junior midfielder Matt Kubota said. “It was a great breakthrough season that opened the eyes of the competition.”
The Gauchos will return all but three players from this season’s squad next year.
“The most exciting part of this season was that we won the league with a young team,” Vom Steeg said. “Expectations will be very high, so many players will have experience, but every player must make a commitment to improve.”
With the loss to the Bears, seniors Brandon Meeks, Friend and Young ended their careers wearing the Gaucho blue and gold.
“As [the season] gets further away I’m sure I’ll miss it more,” Young said. “As I was cleaning out my locker, I was thinking I’m probably not going to be back here.”