The #14 UCSB men’s soccer team stayed undefeated in the Big West, coming from behind twice in a 2-2 double overtime tie with fellow Big West powerhouse Northridge.
“It was a good effort on our part to battle back, but our goal is to always win at home,” senior midfielder Nate Boyden said.
Trailing 2-1 late in the second half, Gaucho Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg moved sophomore defender Andy Iro up front as a striker.
“Andy is a big body who is hard to defend,” Vom Steeg said. “He actually used to play forward in England, so we knew he would be comfortable.”
The move worked out for UCSB (6-2-2 overall, 3-0-1 in the Big West) as a Matador defender was caught pulling on Iro’s jersey in the box, awarding the Gauchos with a penalty kick with 3:15 left.
Senior midfielder Bryan Byrne took the kick, going to his right while Northridge’s freshman keeper Kevin Guppy dove left, netting the second Santa Barbara equalizer of the match.
“In the Big West, you want to win every game,” said Byrne. “We were all getting a little tired toward the end, but it’s good that we could get a point out of it.”
Just when the Gauchos seemed ready to head to overtime, the Matadors got one last chance. Senior midfielder Daniel Paladini, who scored the first Northridge goal, was tripped up in the penalty box with 1:15 left. Junior midfielder Taylor Canel’s penalty kick was blocked on an incredible diving save by junior goalie Kyle Reynish.
“I just had to save that,” Reynish said. “There was lots of pressure, but I had the College Cup Finals experience and was actually pretty comfortable. I was able to get a good read on him to make the save.”
The Gauchos came out storming in the first overtime period. Byrne found himself all alone, on the left side in front of the net, after a through ball from freshman Chris Pontius, but wasn’t able to get any power behind his shot.
Minutes later, the tandem teamed up again, this time with Byrne’s shot hitting the side of the net. The fans erupted, thinking the Gauchos had scored. Their excitement was spurred further by the public address announcer who started calling it a goal before realizing the ball had gone just wide.
“We worked hard and had some bad luck,” said Iro. “We weren’t ready in the first half and they dominated us. It’s annoying because they are not a good team.”
The Matadors struck first, only five minutes into the match. Sophomore forward Willie Sims dribbled through the heart of the Gaucho defense. After drawing the defenders to him, Simms passed to his left to a wide-open Paladini in the middle of the box for an easy look at the goal.
UCSB didn’t get on the board until the beginning of the second half. After a Matador foul, Byrne took the free kick near the right corner of the penalty box. His kick found the head of junior Jeff Murphy, hitting the near post and bouncing in to tie the score at 1.
Northridge retook the lead midway through the second half. After a Santa Barbara foul, Paladini took the free kick, finding an oncoming senior forward Alec de Mattos. De Mattos used a heel pass to find junior forward Ryan Rossi behind him wide open in front of Reynish, giving CSUN a 2-1 lead.
UCSB returns to action Friday at Irvine.