With a share of the conference lead on the line, the UCSB men’s soccer team did not disappoint at home. Santa Barbara ran around, through and all over the Cal State Fullerton Titans in a 2-0 victory Saturday night.
The #6 Gauchos (11-3-1, 5-1-0 Big West) needed a win to rebound from a dismal performance a week ago. At the time boasting a five game shutout victory streak, Santa Barbara laid an egg in Northridge en route to a 1-0 defeat.
“[The win] is very important,” junior defender Martin Hedevag said. “The Northridge game was horrible; we played like absolute crap.”
So when it came to this week’s game, the Gauchos were not about to let anything go wrong.
“We had the whole week off,” Hedevag said, before quickly correcting himself. “Well, not off. We trained a lot. The coaches made sure we were prepared to go win this game.”
The action started early, with UCSB breaking through in the 25th minute. Senior forward David Walker, playing without a large cast on his hand for the first time since early September, played a perfect pass toward the top of the box. The ball found the feet of sophomore forward Waid Ibrahim, who approached the semicircle and rocketed a shot at the far post. The ball beat Titan keeper Trevor Whiddon and slammed into the back of the net, giving Ibrahim his fourth goal of the season and the Gauchos a 1-0 lead.
Just under eight minutes later, Santa Barbara did it again. Freshman forward Machael David played a brilliant through ball to Walker, who found himself in the clear with just the keeper to beat. Walker took his time, lined up a shot and placed it inside the far post for the second goal.
With a two-goal lead, the Gauchos slowed play down in the second half. While each team had several decent chances, including a breakaway by freshman forward Michael Nonni that ended in a misfired chip shot and a Fullerton rocket that nicked the crossbar, neither squad could break through and add another goal. The final score read 2-0, and UCSB picked up another Big West win.
“It was really important for us, because we were 4-1, but the league was still so tight,” Hedevag said. “If we didn’t win today, we wouldn’t be first in the league.”
Now sitting at 5-1 in the Big West, the Gauchos are tied at 15 points with Cal Poly but have a game in hand. And while the Big West is generally a strong conference and wins can be tough to come by, Santa Barbara has a lot of confidence down the stretch.
“We shouldn’t even lose games in league,” Hedevag said. “We’re too good to lose games. After Northridge, we really wanted to come out and run over this team.”
And while two goals were hardly the offensive explosion the Gauchos had been looking for, the win keeps UCSB on track for a special season. With only one goal given up in six Big West games and an offense that can explode at any instant, the only real question is if Santa Barbara can avoid beating itself.