I watched a great men’s soccer season end one hot winter Tuesday at an undersized soccer field in Northridge. I slinked away while a couple hundred Gaucho Locos chanted “Good luck Northridge,” and “Go to the Final Four.”
The Locos may have been encouraging the Matadors to mimic the Gauchos of yesteryear and head to the Final Four – a dream that was shattered a measly 34 seconds into overtime in Northridge’s Sweet 16 loss to New Mexico – but my mind was filled with poison. While I drove my shiny green Nissan back to Isla Vista, I couldn’t help but think of how much happier I’d be if UCSB could just beat Northridge. A 2-2 tie and a 1-0 loss to the Matadors during the regular season put them ahead of Santa Barbara in the polls and gave them a seed in the tournament. Had the Gauchos been victorious in just one of those two meetings, they would have had a first round bye and a second round home game.
Instead of playing in inferno-like daytime temperatures in the mid-80s, the Gauchos would have enjoyed a cool night under the floodlights of Harder Stadium in front of arguably the best home crowd in college soccer. A victory is all but guaranteed when people like my roommate and I come wearing nothing but board shorts and a shirt made entirely out of acrylic paint that simply says “U” on the front. Instead of crying in my beer I’d be – well, crying in my beer for a much happier, drunker reason.
I know it sounds like I’m bummed about the way the season played out, but truthfully I’m not at all. I could analyze the numbers starting with the most important ones (15 wins, five losses) or maybe the number of shutouts the impressive defensive line helped junior goalkeeper Kyle Reynish record (nine.) But what was most exciting about this season were the people involved.
Freshman midfielder Eric Avila was named Big West Freshman of the Year – replacing last year’s winner and this year’s Big West Defender of the Year sophomore Andy Iro. The two are joined by four of their teammates on the All-Big West first team. Senior midfielder Nate Boyden, senior forward Ivan Becerra, senior defender Pat Scott and midfielder Hermann Trophy candidate Tyler Rosenlund all earned their spot on the first team. Senior midfielders Bryan Byrne and Chris Hughes, and Reynish earned second team honors. And once again, Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg was named Big West Coach of the Year for the second straight season.
This award-winning squad left me with some great memories in my last year here. There were senior forward Jonathan Davis’ extracurricular activities and his game-sealing blasts against Irvine and San Diego State. There was Avila scoring two game-winning goals – both against Davis. And then, anyone who came to a soccer game can tell you about Iro’s dominating play on the backline and of his pounding in headers from the frontline. There were diving saves and near misses, and so many more memories I could fill a book – I’d probably throw in some photos so that Northridge fans could “read” it too.
This season proved that the thunder of UCSB is no longer exclusive to the confines of the Events Center. Covering the men’s soccer team did more than help me pay my bills and fill my Saturday nights with sober entertainment – it made me proud to be a Gaucho. Here in Santa Barbara we play football with a net, and I’m damn proud to admit it.
Although Daily Nexus staff writer Sean Lewis found some solace in the Gauchos’ season-ending loss to Northridge, he is still trying to find the “scoreboard” in Northridge’s “stadium.”