Junior forward Drew McAthy is at it again.

McAthy notched the game-winning goal, his fifth such kind the season and ninth overall, in the 79th minute to lead the #7 UCSB men’s soccer team past Riverside (5-5-1 overall, 1-1-1 in the Big West) in a Big West battle for early first-place bragging rights.

The Gauchos got on the board early when senior midfielder Memo Arzate found senior forward Neil Jones for the game’s first goal. The initial goal, registered 13:29 into the match, was Jones’ team and Big West-leading ninth goal of the season – a lead that would later prove to be quite brief, thanks to McAthy. With four assists on the season, Jones leads Santa Barbara with 22 points.

UCSB made sure that Riverside goalkeeper Josh Alexander was busy in the first half, firing 13 shots on the Highlanders. Alexander gave up the early goal but also made seven saves to keep the Highlanders in the game as it went into halftime.

Riverside’s Jeff Pusey tied the game in the 69th minute off a pass from Jordan Arias.

Santa Barbara responded with McAthy’s goal at the 78:33 mark and junior goalkeeper Danny Kennedy kept UCR in check for the rest of the contest to improve to 2-0-0 in the Big West and 9-1-1 overall.

The Gauchos shut down Highlander Luc Harrington, who fired just two shots, none of which hit target. Harrington joined the Gauchos’ Jones as the Big West Offensive Co-Player of the Week last week after scoring a goal to beat conference rival Fullerton on Saturday. Harrington was also named to College Soccer News’ National Team of the week. Harrington’s six goals are third best in the Big West, behind the conference co-leaders Jones and McAthy.

Arzate’s two goals moved his 2003 total to 11, upping his season average to one goal per game. His assist total is far and away the most by any Big West player. Teammate senior midfielder David McGill has registered five assists this season, second on the conference charts.

Junior defender Tony Lochhead, who returned on Tuesday from an international match with his national team of New Zealand against Iran in Tehran, Iran, started against the Highlanders on Wednesday afternoon and recorded a shot.

The Gauchos have a big test on Saturday as they take on Northridge at 7 p.m. at Harder Stadium.