The UCSB men’s soccer team snapped its three-game conference losing streak by trouncing UC Riverside in the rain on Saturday night at Harder Stadium.
The Gauchos improved to 13-4-1 overall and 5-3-0 in Big West competition, holding onto second place in conference standings. First place Northridge, who edged Santa Barbara 2-1 on Wednesday in the battle for the top spot in the Big West, won a dramatic 5-4 double-overtime match against third-place Irvine to hold on to its first place standing. The Matadors have 16 points compared to Santa Barbara’s 15.
Even if the Gauchos continue to win, they will need CSUN to slip in order to share or win the 2003 Big West title. A Matador tie or loss would open the door for Santa Barbara to gain ground in the standings. With the Irvine loss and the Santa Barbara lead, the Gauchos increased their points lead over the Anteaters to a full game – three points ahead of third-place UCI.
Against the Highlanders, junior forward Drew McAthy put away the first goal of the game, his 13th of the season, on a penalty kick just before halftime. McAthy capitalized after senior midfielder Matt Kubota was taken down in the penalty box by the Riverside defense. McAthy also shot a game-high eight shots on the evening, one more than the entire Highlander squad.
Freshman forward Johnny Alcaraz registered his first goal in a Gaucho uniform just five minutes after the start of the second half, putting away a brilliant pass from senior midfielder Memo Arzate.
Riverside split the Santa Barbara lead in half when forward Jordan Arias fired a shot past junior goalkeeper Danny Kennedy at the 53:17 mark. For 30 minutes, UCR remained just a goal away from scoring the equalizer until Kubota received a pass from Arzate and fired it hard at the net. A Riverside defender deflected the shot to senior forward Gene Deering, who snuck the ball past goalkeeper Josh Alexander for his second goal of the season and the Gauchos’ third of the game.
Arzate recorded two more assists Saturday night and is still competing for 2003 Big West Player of the Year honors.
Santa Barbara will host Cal State Fullerton on Wednesday night at 7 it its final home match of the 2003 season.