Gaucho soccer continued its tear through the Big West with another victory, this time 2-0 over UC Davis on the road. With the win, the Gauchos extend their winning streak to six, retaining their spot on top of the conference with just four games remaining.

[media-credit id=16616 align=”alignleft” width=”250″][/media-credit]The game-winning goal came from an unlikely source for this Gaucho team, with sophomore midfielder Nic Ryan putting his first career ball into the net in the 52nd minute off a rebound after Davis goalkeeper Omar Zeenni failed to hold on to Ryan’s first shot.

“I’m really happy with it,” Ryan said. “I’m from up north, so all my family was here and all that. It was good to get it in front of all of them. To finally get one now and to contribute… it means I’m helping out the team and that means a lot.”

This victory improves UCSB to 9-3-2 overall and 5-1 in conference matches. Despite the win, Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg sees room for improvement as the postseason looms.

“I thought that we did what we had to do to win the game,” Vom Steeg said. “I don’t think we necessarily played great, but it’s also a very difficult place to play. They’re very direct and get a lot of second balls so we played well enough. We’ll take the win.”

UCSB had a scary moment in the second half when senior goalkeeper Sam Hayden went down hard after challenging a ball. The team collectively held its breath while the medical staff and Vom Steeg went out to assess the team’s defensive anchor before he returned to finish out the match.

“His shins were pretty much at that guy’s head level,” junior midfielder Danny Barrera said. “He did a complete flip in the air. I’ve never seen him do that. He just did a full flip and landed right on his ribs.”

Even Hayden was unsure of whether he could continue.

“I came out for the ball and jumped and came down straight down on my head,” Hayden said. “Luckily I tucked my head in. I was just praying that I could move. My neck hurts and my ribs hurt, but luckily I didn’t get a concussion or even worse.”

With Hayden back in goal, the defense’s performance produced its sixth shutout of the season and is poised to challenge UC Irvine for the Big West Championship. They will have to do so without junior defender Chris Hunter, though, who received a red card — and therefore a one-game suspension — in the 89th minute.

“We’ve been playing well, but now we just need to stay consistent,” Vom Steeg said. “I like what we’re doing to win games. We have to play Irvine for, hopefully, the Big West Championship, and hopefully it comes down to that game.”

Banged up, but not without his trademark swagger, Hayden assessed the team’s confidence as they close out the season with four conference matches, including one this Saturday at home against Cal State Northridge.

“It sucks we lost Chris [Hunter], but we’re always a pretty confident team,” Hayden said. “If we just keep playing the way we know how, we’ll be fine.”