After starting the season 4-0-1 with big road victories over North Carolina State University and Duke University, coming home to play city rival Westmont should have been a walk in the park for the Gauchos. The first 60 minutes of Saturday night’s duel proved to be anything but smooth sailing, however.
The UCSB men’s soccer team used two late goals by senior midfielders Neil Jones and Memo Arzate to defeat Westmont 2-0 at Harder Stadium on Saturday night in the 41st meeting between the two schools.
“You always hope it’s 5-0 but you can’t prepare that way – you can’t think that way,” UCSB Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg said. “All you can really do is shoot it through the pipes and hope something is going to go through.”
After a thrilling first half littered with missed opportunities for both teams, Jones ended the offensive futility with his second straight game-winning goal in the 62nd minute. Senior midfielder Matt Kubota kicked a long cross from the top of the penalty box on the left side, and Jones emerged from a crowd to head in his fourth goal of the season into the bottom-right corner of the goal.
“We made a change: We put Johnny on the right-hand side behind [David McGill],” junior goalkeeper Dan Kennedy said. “That gave us more strength running inside, and you saw that in the second half – with that adjustment, we got a lot more balls served in that created the goal.”
In the 68th minute, senior midfielder McGill was tripped by sophomore defender Matt Moser as he was dribbling inside the penalty box. The referee awarded a penalty kick and Arzate knocked in an insurance goal to the right corner of the goal. The goal was Arzate’s second of the season.
“They got tired and that opened up the game for us,” Vom Steeg said. “We spent a lot of time running at them.”
The game was a nail-biter for the undefeated Gauchos. The Warriors almost sent the Westmont segment of the crowd into a frenzy in the eighth minute when Warrior freshman forward Sam Hartman tried to score past Kennedy. Kennedy deflected the ball right to Westmont senior forward Danny Collins. Freshman defender Greg Curry was right there to stop the rebound shot with a leaping header, keeping the score knotted at 0-0.
“It’s a cross-town rivalry so they come out really pumped up. There’s a lot of people here,” Kennedy said. “They set the ball deep, and they got a couple of fortunate bounces and created a couple of dangerous opportunities. But we held tight and came out after the first 15 minutes where we may not have looked at full strength, and we put the ball down and started knocking it in and took over the game.”
The shutout was Kennedy’s third of the season and 16th of his career, moving him into fourth place on the Big West career list.
“Three out of six is pretty good,” Kennedy said. “Last year we had 10 as a team in 22 games and hopefully we can beat that.”
The Gauchos also missed many opportunities throughout the game. Warrior freshman goalkeeper Logan Frank came up with nine saves on 30 Gaucho shots. Frank delighted the Westmont fans with numerous highlight real saves.
“Obviously we had enough chances,” Vom Steeg said. “Their goalie made several saves that most goalies won’t make and you just kind of get hot.”
Westmont still holds the all-time advantage over the Gauchos at 23-14-4, but UCSB has won four of the last five meetings. The series between the two schools is the second longest in UCSB history. The longest is the UCSB-Cal Poly series, at 43 games.
The Gauchos host Cal Poly on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Harder Stadium for their first Big West match of the year.