The last game of the season turned out to be one of the best for the #17 UCSB men’s soccer team.
In what could be their final game in Harder Stadium this season, Santa Barbara’s seniors were honored before play started Saturday night. When the game did start, the 1,500 fans in attendance were treated to the Gauchos’ best playing of the season en route to a 2-0 shutout over Irvine.
“It was our best game of the year,” Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg said. “We played well, we moved the ball well and got a lot of chances.”
Senior Anteater goalkeeper Ryan Mathy kept the game deadlocked, making three big saves in the first half, but was overwhelmed by the Gaucho attack in the second. The game-winning goal came from the foot of sophomore midfielder and Hermann trophy candidate Tyler Rosenlund. Rosenlund received a through ball from freshman midfielder Chris Pontius and chipped it over Mathy in the 47th minute.
“I saw the goalie come out so I side-stepped it over his head,” Rosenlund said. “I’ve done that a little in training.”
The Gauchos continued the attack and out-shot Irvine 17-4. Senior forward and Santa Barbara’s leading goal-scorer Ivan Becerra took five of those shots but was unable to put the ball in the net. The second goal came in the 87th minute when senior forward Jonathan Davis received a cross from Rosenlund and bounced it under a diving Mathy.
“We worked real hard tonight,” Rosenlund said. “The harder we work, the more chances we get.”
The game moved Santa Barbara ahead of Irvine in the Big West standings into second place. The Anteaters could have moved into first in the conference had they beaten the Gauchos, but the loss moved them to third instead.
“When everyone’s on the same page it just feels good,” Davis said.
The Gauchos couldn’t have picked a better time to start playing this well; the NCAA Tournament starts next week and Santa Barbara expects to receive an at-large bid.
“We didn’t leave any doubt [that the Gauchos deserve a playoff bid] in my opinion,” Vom Steeg said. “12-4 is a very good season.”
The strong play of sophomore defender Andy Iro helped neutralize most attacks before they ever got started, and whenever they did manage to break away, someone else from Santa Barbara’s backline was there to shut them down. Junior goalkeeper Kyle Reynish only had to make one save to record his eighth complete-game shutout of the season.
“This was one of our best games all year,” Rosenlund said. “We’re playing more like a team now.”
The team will be at Zodo’s Bowling and Beyond awaiting the announcement from the NCAA selection committee to see if it will be heading to the tournament and who it will be facing. The announcement will be made today 1:00 p.m. and on ESPNEWS.