The #21 UCSB men’s soccer team passed its first postseason test, netting two second-half goals to defeat #24 San Diego State 2-0 at Harder Stadium.
“I thought that we played great against Irvine [on Nov. 12] and I was very encouraged by that game,” Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg said. “I’m proud of how we stayed in our game plan [today].”
The Santa Barbara offense wasted no time, pressuring the Aztec defense and junior goalkeeper Tally Hall throughout the first half.
Sophomore midfielder and Hermann Trophy candidate Tyler Rosenlund had a quality chance in the 11th minute of the match. Rosenlund found himself alone with the ball to the right of the net, but Hall made the save, charging the ball to cut off Rosenlund’s angle and forcing a deflection.
“We knew going in that their goalkeeper was very good, but I think that when we play at our best we can wear the other team down,” Vom Steeg said.
Early in the second half Gaucho senior forward Jonathan Davis beat one defender and found himself in nearly the same spot as Rosenlund had been in the first half. Davis was unable to squeeze a shot past Hall and instead blasted a shot into his chest.
“We were walking all over them offensively,” sophomore forward Andrew Proctor said. “It was only a matter of time before we would break through.”
Santa Barbara finally found a hole in the Aztec back line in the 58th minute. Rosenlund issued a pass from midfield that found Proctor near the penalty box. Proctor brought the ball down cleanly and laid it off for senior forward Ivan Becerra, who juked the oncoming Hall and nailed the ball into the empty net.
Later in the half, Rosenlund again found himself in the midst of the action. After an Aztec foul just outside their own penalty box, Rosenlund took the free kick before SDSU could set its defense, finding Davis all alone to the right of Hall. Davis wasn’t to be denied again, blasting a shot over Hall’s left shoulder for a 2-0 Gaucho lead.
“They haven’t been to a playoff game before and you could tell they were scared in their eyes,” Rosenlund said.
The UCSB backline constructed a brick wall, limiting SDSU to five shots as junior keeper Kyle Reynish was never truly tested.
“I thought [sophomore defender] Andy [Iro] was dominant today,” senior midfielder Chris Hughes said. “Andy is the key to our defense and sets the tone for me and [junior defender] Jeff [Murphy].”
The crowd of 2,694 helped Santa Barbara to its fifth straight home win. UCSB has not lost at Harder Stadium since its Sept. 2 opener against Cal.
“Our crowd is amazing,” Vom Steeg said. “It’s the best crowd in college soccer.”
The victory sets the stage for a rematch between UCSB and fellow Big West power Northridge. The Matadors handed UCSB its most recent defeat, 1-0 in Northridge on Nov. 2. The Gauchos worked a 2-2 tie with Northridge at Harder Stadium in the teams’ first meeting this season.
“We’re hoping the third time’s the charm,” Hughes said.
Second round action begins Tuesday at 1 p.m. at Northridge’s Matador Soccer Field.