UC Irvine turned out to be a much more frightening foe than anticipated this Halloween weekend, upsetting UCSB at Harder Stadium 3-1 Saturday night.
The Anteaters (10-1-6, 3-1-4 Big West) came back from an early deficit with two quick goals late in the first half, but the game was far from decided until an 89th-minute strike from forward Spencer Thompson sealed the deal.
“It was just one of those games where we didn’t capitalize on our chances,” Gaucho co-captain Chris Pontius said. The senior attacker notched the assist on UCSB’s goal, but was unable to find the net throughout the match.
The action started early, when freshman midfielder Luis Silva sent a pass to Pontius near the corner of the 18-yard box. Pontius dribbled out a step or two before laying the ball off to a streaking Peter McGlynn. The freshman one-touched a rocket to the far post, beating out Anteater keeper Andrew Fontein and putting UCSB up early. The goal was the first of McGlynn’s college career.
However, the celebration would not last long for Santa Barbara. Down a goal, the Anteaters immediately started putting pressure on the Gauchos, and in the 34th minute it paid off. Irvine’s speedy midfielder Irving Garcia worked his way into space in the UCSB box, and Kevin Santora found him on a long cross. Garcia immediately took the pass and finished it into the right side of the net, knotting things up at one goal apiece.
Just four minutes later, Irvine midfielder Carlos Aguilar took a free kick from a similar spot, and again found an open Anteater in the box. This time it was defender Gray Bailey, who put the ball past Gaucho freshman keeper Kristopher Minton. The goal would prove to be the game winner, and the 2-1 score would hold for almost the entire remainder of the game.
“I think we went into the game thinking we already had the victory in the bag,” Pontius said. “Irvine came out to play and wanted it more than us.”
While UCSB played better in the second half, the Gauchos never did find the goal again. With just over a minute to go, the Anteaters put the nail in the coffin as Santa Barbara was frantically trying to equalize. The Gauchos had an all-out attack going, but this left them vulnerable for a counterattack, and Irvine’s speedy forwards did just that.
Thompson ended up in a footrace after a clearance from the Irvine box, and beat out everyone to end up alone outside of the Gaucho goal. Minton came out to charge him, but Thompson lofted the ball over his head to secure the victory.
With the loss, UCSB drops to 10-5-2, with a 5-2-1 mark in the Big West. However, the Gauchos can still clinch the regular season title with a win over Cal Poly on Wednesday. That game will be at Harder Stadium at 7p.m., and UCSB is hoping to break the NCAA regular season attendance record.