The top of the Big West Standings just got a lot lonelier for #14 Northridge men’s soccer team after its 1-0 defeat of #13 Santa Barbara Wednesday afternoon.

The Gauchos (10-4-3 overall, 5-1-2 in the Big West) need wins in their final two games and need Northridge (11-2-3 overall, 7-0-1 Big West) to drop their final two games if they wish to successfully defend their title of Conference Champions.

“We’re very disappointed,” Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg said. “Obviously we didn’t get the result that we wanted.”

All one has to do to see just how close these two teams were is to check the box score. Both teams shot 15 times and both keepers had six saves. The Matadors finished with one more shot on goal to bring their total to seven. Four of those came on the play that would put Northridge in the lead.

Three of those shots were taken by Matador senior forward Daniel Paladini. After losing his man near the top of the box Paladini received a cross but had the ball poked away from him. He tracked down the loose ball and fired a shot but was stopped by junior defender Jeff Murphy. Once again Paladini tracked down the loose ball and took another shot – this time it was deflected by junior keeper Kyle Reynish, and once again Paladini found the loose ball, only this time he was able to send it past the Santa Barbara defenders and into the goal for the game’s only score.

“Normally when you shoot the ball three times it doesn’t come back to you three times,” Vom Steeg said. “So I guess you could call that a lucky play at the end of the day.”

Santa Barbara had its opportunities to tie the contest but was unable to properly finish. Sophomore forward Andrew Proctor had his open shot from 10 yards out stopped by freshman Matador keeper Kevin Guppy, who also stopped a blast from freshman midfielder Chris Pontius from 20 yards out. Freshman forward Nick Perera was also denied by Guppy when he turned and shot a ball from senior sophomore midfielder Tyler Rosenlund. Senior forward Jonathan Davis and sophomore defender Andy Iro were also unable to complete any of their attempts.

“All season long it’s taken us 18, 19 or even 26 shots to get a goal,” Vom Steeg said. “It has very little to do with Northridge – it’s just something that has happened to us all year long. We work hard to create a lot of opportunities but when you play a team like Northridge you’re not going to get 20 shots a game.”

If the Matadors win one of their final two games then they will win the Conference and it will mark the fourth year in a row that the Big West Championship has switched between the Gauchos and Northridge.