The second-place UCSB men’s soccer squad trounced league rival Cal Poly (6-6-3 overall, 2-3-1 in the Big West) for the 12th straight time.
Despite trailing in several telling offensive categories such as shots, shots on goal and corner kicks, Santa Barbara (8-6 overall, 4-2 Big West) triumphed with a score of 2-0 largely due to the offensive contributions of junior midfielder Tyler Rosenlund, who put up two assists that lead to his first offensive points of the season, after he spent nearly half of this year’s games on the disabled list.
“It’s really great to have him back in full form,” sophomore forward Nick Perera said. “We were really missing the through balls with him on the sideline, and now that he’s back [our offensive scheme] really works a lot better.”
The first goal came early in the 12th minute when Rosenlund found the lighting quick feet of Eric Avila, who one-touched the ball past Mustang goalkeeper Eric Branagan-Franco.
Smelling blood, the Gauchos would not sit back on their one-goal lead, but instead went right for the throat. Half a minute later, junior forward Andrew Proctor dropped the ball back to Rosenlund, who hit it with one touch out in front of freshman forward Bongomin Otii, who then drove the ball home for the game’s final goal.
Otii’s goal broke a cold streak of nine scoreless games, after he scored a blistering five goals in five games at the start of his collegiate career.
“It was good for our team to get that second goal, because we’ve been getting a lot of chances but just haven’t been finishing,” Rosenlund said. “[Otii] went through a slump [after scoring a bunch early on, so] I’m sure that [goal] is going to help him a lot.”
Holding onto the most dangerous lead in soccer proved to be somewhat of a challenge for Santa Barbara, who surrendered 10 shots on frame – 15 overall – and four corner kicks.
Senior goalkeeper Kyle Reynish did his part by making eight saves in the contest, a season high for the veteran.
“Kyle has been playing well for us even though the win/loss [ratio doesn’t reflect that],” Rosenlund said. “Except for a couple mistakes, he’s one of the best shot-savers I’ve ever seen.”
The win puts the Gauchos back in the driver’s seat in what is turning out to be a wild run for the Big West Championship. Cal State Northridge (5-3-5 overall, 3-0-3 Big West) currently holds the edge over UCSB with the head-to-head tiebreak as both teams have tallied 12 points in the league contest.
Nipping at the heels of the two is the one time top-ranked team in the West, UC Irvine (9-3-2 overall, 3-2 Big West). Having played one fewer game than Santa Barbara and Northridge, the Anteaters currently hold nine points, but not the head-to-head edge over the Gauchos.
“We have to win out to win league,” Rosenlund said. “I’d say our two toughest games left are Northridge at home and Irvine at Irvine, but we have to come out every game like it’s a playoff game because if we drop one of the other ones, there’s a chance we won’t make the playoffs.”
The Gauchos will take on the UC Davis Aggies in Harder Stadium this Wednesday at 7 p.m. in their final scheduled non-league match-up of the year. But even so, there will be an aura of vengeance involved as the Aggies helped damage UCSB’s playoff hopes earlier this season by beating them 1-0 in Davis.
Santa Barbara will then close out the week at home on Saturday night against last-place Cal State Fullerton (5-8-1 overall, 1-4 Big West).