By Matt Faust
The Cal Poly defense did its best to keep the ball away from the UCSB men’s soccer team’s top scorers, but simply nothing was going to stop the Gauchos from scoring in their Big West opener Wednesday night at Harder Stadium.
The defending Big West champions extended their unbeaten streak against conference opponents to eleven games with a 2-0 win over rival Cal Poly. The Gauchos defeated the Mustangs for the fifth straight time while handing them their second straight shutout loss.
Junior defender Tony Lochhead scored the only goal the Gauchos would need at 36:31 on a pass from senior midfielder Memo Arzate on a free kick. Santa Barbara was awarded a free kick when senior goalkeeper Greg Blevins picked up a back pass from the defender outside the six-yard box. Lochhead hammered the ball home through a wall of Cal Poly defenders for his first goal of the season. The assist was Arzate’s fifth of the year and moved him into first place in the Big West ranks in assists, one above Gaucho senior midfielder David McGill.
Arzate wasn’t finished, though, and at 56:02 scored his third goal of the season on a pass from senior midfielder Neil Jones to put the game away. Memo was wide open in the middle of the field and fired the ball into the net from 15 yards out. The assist was Jones’ third of the season, tying him with last season’s career high. Jones is now tied for third in the Big West with David Yemane from Irvine with 3 assists.
Jones, along with junior forward Drew McAthy, was named one of the top 12 deadliest forward duos in the nation by College Soccer News this past week.
“It’s great to get the recognition, but me and Drew aren’t big media guys; we just want the team to win and go deep into the playoffs,” Jones said.
The junior was injured in the first half and had to leave the game but returned for the start of the second half. Jones’ right ankle was heavily taped at the end of the game, but according to Jones the injury is not a concern.
Cal Poly tried to play keep away with the Gauchos through most of the first half, frustrating the UCSB offense.
“We had a lot of energy out there with our forwards, and they were able to put good pressure on [Cal Poly],” UCSB Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg said.
Junior goalkeeper Dan Kennedy posted his third straight shutout and his fourth overall this season. Kennedy made six saves on 14 Cal Poly shots.
“I think the record from last year is three in a row, so we’ll head up to Sacramento this Sunday and see if we can beat that,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy has played well all season and has allowed only three goals all season while playing every minute at goalkeeper for Santa Barbara. Kennedy needs just one more shutout to tie for third all-time in Big West history for most career complete game shutouts.
“Danny has played well all season,” Vom Steeg said. “I think he is one of the best goalkeepers in the country.”
With the team up by two goals and the Mustangs showing no signs of any offensive threat, Vom Steeg was able to substitute a lot of younger players into the game. Sixteen Gauchos saw playing time in the game, including four freshmen.
“They’ve been training really well, so we wanted to get them into the game,” Vom Steeg said.
Since the Big West reinstated men’s soccer in 2001, the Gauchos have yet to lose a home conference match. Santa Barbara is 10-0 in the current Big West era at home against conference opponents. With five more consecutive conference wins, the Gauchos will tie an NCAA D-1 record with 15 straight. Santa Barbara’s 17-game home winning streak is the 16th longest in NCAA history, and one more home win will tie the team for 15th.
The Gauchos travel to Sacramento this Sunday to take on the Sacramento State Hornets in a nonconference battle. The Hornets are currently 2-4-1 on the year and have not won a match since Sept. 7, when they defeated St. Mary’s 1-0. UCSB defeated the Hornets 3-0 a year ago at home.