Following a heartbreaker in last week’s loss to USF, the UCSB men’s soccer club hoped for a much-needed win Saturday night when archrival Cal Poly came to town, but could only manage a 2-2 tie when all was said and done.
The game started slowly, and for the first part of the game, neither team seemed able to get a good shot at the goal. It was apparent that the upcoming game was going to be a struggle of defenses.
“I think from our standpoint, we should have had more shots,” Head Coach Randy Eskilson said.
Suddenly, about 14 minutes into the half, it seemed as though Santa Barbara had broken through on what appeared to be a goal by junior midfielder Rolando Beltran. While it fooled the crowd, the ball had simply hit the side of the net, and about a minute later, the first goal of the game was scored by the Mustangs.
But the Gauchos were quick to respond. They allowed Cal Poly few shots on goal and were taking many more. With 8:10 left in the half, their persistence paid off when senior defenseman Bret Merchant put the ball into the Mustang net.
“I think the first half we had better possession and opportunities,” Eskilson said. “Cal Poly only scored off of one shot.”
With each team managing to score only one goal in the first half, neither team managed to truly gain the upper hand. Both sides did bring forth a lot of defense, however, with the ball continually moving across the midfield line.
“We have been working on defense because we are trying to find an identity with it,” Eskilson said. “You have to win championships with defense and we have struggled with it so far this season.”
In the first four minutes of the second half, it seemed as though it would be just as back and forth as the last. Then, a quarter of the way through the fifth minute, the Gauchos made the score 2-1 in their favor off a spectacular header just over the goalie by sophomore forward Kyle Robinson.
For much of the half afterward, the Gauchos shut down the Mustangs on defense, allowing few shots on goal. Though neither team scored on defense, it appeared as if the Gauchos were dominating by firing off several more shots. However, it only takes one moment to change the course of a game, and with 14 minutes remaining, Cal Poly managed to break through UCSB’s defenses and tie the game at two apiece.
“We built confidence after our second goal,” Eskilson said. “I still have a lot of faith in these players that they can win from a 1-0 deficit. In terms of Cal Poly’s second goal, it’s the same thing we struggled with in the first game: Our defense is making mistakes.”
Though they fought valiantly, the Gauchos were unable to break the tie before the end of the game. With a final score of 2-2, the Gauchos knew that they missed many opportunities to put the game out of reach. Coach Eskilson believes the missed opportunities will disappear as the team gains experience.
“We are trying to build an identity, and we have a lot of new players,” Eskilson said. “I think that as the season progresses the goals will come.”
The Gauchos are now 2-2-2 on the season. Their next game is at home on the 11th against USC on Rob Field.