UCSB needed a win in their regular season finale to clinch the conference title. It got a tie.
The Gauchos played 110 minutes of scoreless soccer on a dreary Saturday morning at UC Davis, giving them second place in a very strong Big West Conference. And while the game may not have had any goals, it was far from boring.
“It’s one thing to not score, it’s another to have some really good opportunities,” Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg said. “I thought we played well.
“I thought we did everything we needed to do to win that game.”
The breaks just did not go the Gauchos’ way. UCSB out-shot UCD 17-8, including a couple of brilliant opportunities, but never could capitalize.
“We just need to start finishing our chances on goal,” junior forward David Walker said.
Not scoring against Davis is nothing new for UCSB, though. The Aggies were the team that broke Santa Barbara’s 31-game scoring streak with a 2-0 victory earlier this season.
“They work really well as a team, and it’s eight guys back,” Walker said. “It’s hard to [have] three or four guys to get going against eight guys.”
Each team had one chance to score that really stuck out. For the Aggies, that opportunity came in the 78th minute. Davis senior forward and Big West leading scorer Quincy Amarikwa used his speed to work a counterattack, beating the UCSB defense and going one on one with Gaucho freshman keeper Kristopher Minton. Minton came all the way out of the box to deter Amarikwa, but clipped the forward on the heel as he passed. The Aggies received a free kick from about 19 yards out, were unable to convert it into a goal. Minton was issued a yellow card for the affair, one of eight on the game.
The Gauchos appeared to have the title won when, in the first overtime period, senior forward Chris Pontius snuck past the back line on a free kick. Freshman midfielder Danny Barrera bent the pass to him perfectly, and Pontius rocketed a volley on net from inside the six-yard box. Davis sophomore keeper Ryan McCowan reacted immediately — reaching up and somehow punching the ball over the crossbar at the last second.
Neither team would come closer than that to the net, though each had a handful of opportunities.
With the tie, the Gauchos finished second on the conference to UC Irvine. Cal Poly and UC Davis finished third and fourth, respectively, earning them spots in the Big West Tournament.
“It’s hard not to be Big West champions for the first time since I’ve been here,” Walker said. “But coming out with a 0-0 tie at Davis isn’t that disappointing. It’s a good tie.”
Senior forward Nick Perera agreed. “I think that we went down there with a mission and we accomplished it,” he said. “Our goal was to come away with at least a tie.”
UCSB now turns its focus to the postseason, starting with the Big West Tournament. The Gauchos will host a game this Wednesday night against Cal Poly, in a rematch of last week’s match. If Santa Barbara defeats the Mustangs, it will move on to the winner of the Davis-Irvine game.
“We’re in the mindset that we’re still a pissed off team, we’re happy to have Cal Poly at home,” Perera said. “We’re just going to try to keep playing like we’ve been playing and get a win on Wednesday.”