In a game of unprecedented proportions for UCSB soccer, and perhaps UCSB athletics as a whole, the Gauchos survived a double-overtime heavyweight slugfest with perennial national powerhouse Indiana University 1-0 last Saturday in New Mexico.
“Aw, man, it was unbelievable; it was great. I was looking forward to this game for the past two years knowing that we had it on our schedule since we lost to them 3-1,” senior goalkeeper Danny Kennedy said. “When we were flying down to New Mexico we were saying, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we could beat Indiana?’ and we knew we could do it, and we did it, and it’s a very fulfilling moment, to be here, to put in the time we have for the past four seasons and get that result.”
The win catapulted catapulted the Gauchos from a #3 to a #1 ranking in Soccer America. It was freshman defender Andy Iro’s header with just five minutes remaining in the second and final overtime that clinched the win over the six-time defending national champions.
“It was a cross by [junior midfielder] Nate [Boyden], then [junior midfielder Corey Wood] headed it and it went to goal first, got cleared back to the line, then came back to me and I saw there were some guys on the line but they were quite small so I tried to loop it so it went in at the top of the net,” Iro said. “I wasn’t expecting it to go in but at the same time it was after 120 minutes so people were getting tired and reactions were slow, but lucky it went in though.”
The Gauchos survived despite playing a man down from the 91:31 mark to the 101:44 mark. UCSB senior stopper Tony Lochhead earned a red card to put the Gauchos at a disadvantage, but Indiana’s [senior midfielder] Danny O’Rourke earned his second yellow 10 minutes later to make the sides even once again.
“We were definitely excited, especially since we got a red card, and obviously the late goal in overtime, but you can only celebrate so long, especially when you’ve got a game the next day. It’s still early in the season so we can’t be satisfied yet,” senior forward Drew McAthy said.
The #1 ranking is the first in the history of the soccer program and UCSB’s first since the men’s water polo and volleyball teams of the early ’70s achieved the same status.
“It’s exciting because we’re being recognized across the country and that’s something that’s not easy,” Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg said. “You may feel like you’re the #1 team in the country, but to actually get a bunch of people around the country to say, “No, that’s the top-rated program.”
UCSB didn’t have much in the way of celebration time. The next day the Gauchos took the field against Columbia in hopes of winning the University of New Mexico Invitational Tournament. UCSB refrained from allowing similar drama to unfold and put Columbia away early. Senior midfielder Matt Bly scored first at the 5:20 mark, then McAthy added two more, including a rocket from over 50 yards out. The Gauchos won the match 4-1.
“With Indiana, we just survived. It was one of those things where you just finished a marathon and you haven’t really realized what you’ve done until a few days later, and also we had a game the next day and we had expended so much energy and we all realized that if we had turned around the next day and lost to Columbia we wouldn’t have been #1 in the country.”