The view is always better from the top, and after its 2-0 victory over Cal Poly on Saturday night, the UCSB men’s soccer team once again finds itself on top of the Big West standing.
The Gauchos (8-3-3 overall, 4-0-2 in the Big West) got off to a slow start and could not get anything past the Cal Poly sophomore goalkeeper Jeremy Coupe in the first half. Coupe recorded seven saves by the end of the match.
“It’s the same story every time,” UCSB Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg said. “You have to put the work in the first half and you see the results in the second.”
The game-winning goal came in the 65th minute off of a corner kick from senior midfielder Bryan Byrne that found sophomore defender Andy Iro. The 6’4″ Iro leapt and connected with a header from close range to seal the victory.
“We work on set pieces a lot in practice,” Iro said. “We work on routines that get me open.”
The second goal came just over two minutes later. Forward Ivan Becerra and midfielder and Hermann Trophy candidate Tyler Rosenlund worked the two-man game to perfection – passing back and forth until they were inside the 18-yard box.
Rosenlund fed Becerra the ball and Santa Barbara’s leading scorer tallied his ninth goal of the season, drilling the ball past Coupe. Usually a starter, Becerra came in as a sub in Saturday’s contest due to an injury.
“My leg is still kind of bothering me,” Becerra said. “But it felt good out there, it felt like I was 100 percent out there.”
Junior keeper Kyle Reynish earned his sixth shutout of the season with five saves. Before the Gauchos scored, Cal Poly had a couple of prime opportunities that Reynish thwarted.
“Kyle saved us tonight,” Vom Steeg said.
The Mustangs’ best chances came from two of their defenders – freshman Marcus Griffin and junior Colm Cunning. Griffin’s shot was pressured by Reynish in the 58th minute and went wide to the left. Reynish pounced on Cunning’s attempt just a couple of minutes later to keep the Mustangs off the scoreboard.
“There were a couple of breakdowns in the back, but luckily I was looking for them and I got a good jump on the ball,” Reynish said. “It’s real important for us to keep it clean in the back.”
Santa Barbara will look to tighten up its defense and continue its offensive production when it heads to Davis on Wednesday for its final nonconference match of the season.