With seven minutes left in regulation, sophomore forward Katy Roby’s goal — which put #3 seeded UCSB up 2-0 — seemed like the icing on the cake. Thirty seconds later, it became all too necessary. Junior forward Farryn Townley finally got the better of junior keeper Tammy Lenham with a quick strike from point blank range to cut the deficit back to one, but ultimately #2 seeded Cal State Northridge couldn’t muster an equalizer and thus fell again to the visiting Gauchos, this time 2-1 in yesterday’s Big West Tournament Semifinal at Matador Field. With the win, Santa Barbara advances to the conference final at Cal Poly, with an auto-NCAA Tournament bid on the line.
“[The win] feels amazing,” said Roby. “I’m so glad we came out with the win against them. They’re a really good team … it was definitely more physical. There was a lot more to fight for today.”
UCSB entered Thursday’s match confident they could pull out a win at CSUN, having beaten the Matadors 3-2 earlier this year on the road. By halftime in the previous confrontation, UCSB took the lead almost immediately with a goal from junior forward Kailyn Kugler seconds after kickoff. The story would be different this time, as the two teams fought hard to a 0-0 tie at the half. Both teams had their chances early, with Northridge leading in shots 7-4, but neither could capitalize.
“I don’t think we came out that strong in the beginning of the game,” said Roby, “But I think we compensated by putting it away and working hard to get it back at the end of the game.”
Both teams would turn up the offensive intensity in the second half, but it was the visitors who netted the game’s first goal after 22 more minutes of scoreless soccer. A poor clearance in the box by the CSUN defense placed the ball at the feet of junior forward Jacqui Simon, who let fly a shot from about 10 yards out toward the far post. While it was on frame initially, a minor incidental deflection by one of the Matadors maneuvered the shot just past the diving arms of freshman keeper Cynthia Jacobo to put Santa Barbara up 1-0.
In the 84th minute, Roby found herself one-on-one with Jacobo and chipped it just over her head and into the center of the net. Senior defender Sydney Vermillion tried to clear it out of the open net once Jacobo was beaten, but the ball had too much spin and glanced off Vermillon’s boot and into the net for a 2-0 Gaucho advantage. While it was Roby who got the ball rolling, the score went down in the books as an own goal by Northridge.
While Townley’s ninth goal of the year certainly made the last seven minutes interesting, UCSB was able to hold on for the 2-1 win. Lenham turned in another stellar performance in goal for the Gauchos, saving six. This victory sends Santa Barbara to their second consecutive Big West Tournament Championship Match, which will take place Sunday at 1 p.m.