Ugh, not again.
Looking to avenge their first loss of the season last weekend, the #2 ranked Gauchos took on Irvine in front of a the small but vociferous crowd at Harder stadium. The 5-8-0 Anteaters stunned UCSB in a 1-0 nailbiter.
With only 16 minutes left, on a UCSB corner kick, three Gaucho defenders inexpiably fell over which led to an Anteater breakaway. Sophomore goalkeeper Kyle Reynish, in his first start of the year, filled in for injured senior goalkeeper Danny Kennedy. Reynish made a valiant effort in vain when Irvine attacker Chris Klotz tapped the ball past him after receiving a cross from Anthony Hamilton. The goal put the Gauchos behind and sucked the life out of the once rambunctious Gaucho faithful.
“We were fortunate to get that one, Santa Barbara sends a lot of guys forward,” Irvine Head Coach George Kuntz said. “It’s something we’ve been training for, with so many guys forward we have to expose it, you have to get a little lucky too.”
UCSB Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg didn’t share Kuntz’ excitement.
“That was just a messed up play over there, three guys going down on a corner kick,” he said.
The Gauchos had plenty of opportunities, but for the first time this season Santa Barbara failed to muster up a goal. In the 25th minute, junior forward Jonathan Davis just missed the back of the net when he sent a header just right of the post. In the 70th minute senior forward Matt Bly had a breakaway but Irvine keeper Cameron Rossi made a brilliant diving save to deprive Bly of a goal.
“Our keeper came up huge,” Kuntz said. “He’s a senior, he organized things and for the first time he’s been healthy.”
In the final few minutes the Gauchos had Irvine reeling but still failed to capitalize on numerous opportunities. In the last 10 minutes, UCSB had five corner kicks. With only three minutes left, a melee in front of the net left the Anteater keeper on his back but a defender managed to clear the ball a matter of inches before it crossed the line. The last opportunity came when senior forward Drew McAthy streaked between two defenders but the line judges called him offsides much to the chagrin of the remaining fans. Santa Barbara had 12 corner kicks compared to two for the Anteaters.
The Gauchos, who were looking to regroup after dropping their first game of the season last weekend, were forced to juggle their lineup due to suspensions and injuries. Freshman defender Andy Iro missed the game due to a suspension and Kennedy, a two time Big West Player of the Week was reduced to the sideline due to injury.
“That’s everything,” Vom Steeg said in reference to missing players. “It was always uneasy in the back especially with Danny out.”
The Gauchos dropped their second straight game but still brandish an impressive 11-2-1 overall record and 4-2-0 in the Big West.
“(UCSB) really leaves their hearts out on the field here, we know that,” Kuntz said. “They’re an excellent team obviously, we’re proud of what they’ve done.”