There is nothing sweeter than that getting on the board first and a trio of Gauchos that finally broke through. Sophomore forward Andrew Proctor and sophomore midfielder Brennan Tennelle as well as freshman midfielder Alfonso Motagalvan scored for the first time while donning a UCSB uniform, helping Santa Barbara to a 3-1 win at UCR.
“It felt good to finally put one in,” Motagalvan said. “I just had a good opportunity.”
The #20 Gauchos (11-4-3 overall, 6-1-2 in the Big West) came out storming, netting all three goals in the first half. Proctor got things started in the 22nd minute in his first start of the year.
“It was a big step to help getting to the postseason,” Proctor said. “It takes off lots of pressure.”
UCSB finished the match with 18 shots, 10 of which were on goal, while limiting the Highlanders (5-12-1, 3-6-0 Big West) to only two shots on frame in the first game without senior defender Pat Scott, sidelined for the rest of the year with a knee injury. There was no doubt the early goals helped the defense relax and find a groove.
“Those early goals help the defense and the whole team and forces the other team to play to us,” senior midfielder Nate Boyden said. “We feel that we can shut teams down when they play to us and early goals allow our team’s fitness and experience take over.”
Despite a solid first half, Santa Barbara regressed to the same tactics that saw them fall behind early in games against Cal State Northridge and UCLA.
“We did all the right things in the first half,” Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg said. “In the second we went back to the same pattern as when we lose. We gave up another free kick just five minutes into the half and missed our own chances.”
There was plenty of Santa Barbara offensive pressure throughout the match, but the Gauchos weren’t able to get on the board in the second half.
“We are now 10-1 when we score first so those early goals are huge,” Boyden said. “But we had too many missed chances in the second half and gave up yet another easy goal.”
The UCSB defense turned in another sold performance. The defense has given up only two goals in its last three games and has surrendered just five in the last seven matches.
The win sets the stage for a battle this Saturday as second place Irvine travels to Harder Stadium for the final regular season game of the year. A Gaucho win will secure second place and bump the Anteaters to third.
“We have to win the game on Saturday,” Boyden said. “We feel like we owe them one because we tied them down at their place.”
UCSB was dealt a critical blow in the quest for the Big West championship with a 2-2 tie at Irvine on Oct. 14. The Gauchos look to make amends, snag second place and hope to earn an at at-large bid into the NCAA tournament.