With 10,114 fans and a national television audience to bear witness, the UCSB men’s soccer team slammed #9 Indiana 3-0 at home, and in doing so established themselves as a force to be reckoned with on the college soccer scene.
Among the thousands of fans in attendance were the players of the 2004 Gaucho squad, who, five years prior, put UCSB soccer on the map with a 21-2-2 record and a College Cup appearance. Those Gauchos fell on penalties in the National Championship, against none other than the Indiana Hoosiers. So it was fitting, on the night that the ’04 team was honored, the ’09 squad celebrated by blasting Indiana in a lopsided 3-0 affair.
“I’m pretty sure we can beat any team in the country if we just bring that intensity night in and night out,” junior defender Michael Boxall said. It is hard to question the New Zealander when the team puts on a performance like they did Friday night.
Three separate Gauchos scored goals, the defense shut down a potent Hoosier attack, and the crowd was absolutely crazy for all 90 minutes.
“Always in front of the fans, you can’t help but get a little more pumped up,” senior forward David Walker said. “It’s insane out here.”
Boxall concurred, adding, “They’re kind of our 12th man out there.”
However, for the first 10 minutes of the match things hardly looked like they would turn out so favorably for UCSB. Indiana came out strong, controlling the tempo and pressuring the Gauchos on all fronts. A couple of defensive scares and big stops later, Santa Barbara finally got their bearings and turned things around. And that is when things really got interesting.
Utilizing a steady midfield presence, crisp passes and their fantastic team speed, the Gauchos blitzed the Indiana defense over the next 25 minutes. Indiana did well to hold the Gauchos off the board, but the pressure was clearly building to the point that something had to break. That break came in the 39th minute, when sophomore midfielder Michael Tetteh took things upon himself.
The Ghanaian deftly picked his way through the Indiana defense — and the field of tortillas — to get to the end line and send in a cross. The pass was on the money, right to an unmarked Danny Barrera at the far post. The sophomore did his part, finishing the play and giving the Gauchos a 1-0 lead before halftime.
The lead almost went to waste with one second remaining in the first frame though, when Hoosier star Will Bruin exploited a flatfooted Gaucho defense and launched a shot towards the goal as time expired. Santa Barbara keeper Sam Hayden came up with the save, kicking it out of bounds to maintain the 1-0 advantage.
“It’s always good to be up going into half,” Walker said, emphasizing the mental advantage it brings to the locker room.
The save would be one of several big stops for the junior transfer, who notched six on the night and made several acrobatic plays.
“We call him our Superman,” Walker said. “… The guy’s amazing — his hands have got glue in them. He’s kept us in a lot of games.”
The second half started the way most of the first half had gone — with UCSB dominating possession and momentum. It did not take long before the Gauchos saw the fruits of their labor, as five minutes after the break a brilliant through ball from Michael Nonni found the feet of a streaking — and possibly offside — Machael David. The assistant referee determined David was in legal position, and the Nigerian midfielder took advantage. The redshirt freshman darted towards the goal, made one move to juke the keeper out of his shoes and calmly rolled the ball into the back of the net to put the Gauchos up 2-0.
Just over 10 minutes later, Santa Barbara would put the capper on the evening with a third and final goal. Barrera, as he has been known to do, played a perfect cross in the air right on the foot of a streaking forward. That forward was freshman Michael Nonni, who added to his earlier assist by volleying the ball over the keeper’s hands and into the side-netting. Neither team would score again, and the final result read 3-0.
As impressive as three goals are against a solid defense like Indiana’s, what is more amazing is the shutout on defense. The talented but inconsistent UCSB back line looked rock-solid against the Hoosiers, halting most chances before they got started and rarely relying on the stellar play of Hayden.
Boxall, who played despite suffering from flu-like symptoms — he actually vomited on the field midway through the second half and continued to play — helped anchor the back and stop Indiana from getting on the board.
“I don’t think we did anything special,” the Kiwi said. “The whole team just brought a lot of energy, and the back three communicated very well.”
One of those three was junior utility player — technically listed as a midfielder — Martin Hedevag. Hedevag switched to more of a sweeper roll at halftime, and that adjustment seemingly confounded Indiana to no end in the second frame.
So to recap, Friday night at Harder Stadium boasted a record crowd, an offensive explosion, a shutout for the SB defense, fantastic saves, good coaching and an outmatched top-10 opponent — all on national television. It is hard to imagine what more Gaucho fans could want.