Sophomore forward Sam Garza did something no Gaucho has done since Chris Pontius more than three years ago, scoring a hat trick that helped the UCSB men’s soccer (10-3-2 overall, 6-1 Big West) team clinch their seventh straight victory, a 4-0 blowout against Cal State Northridge on Friday night.
[media-credit id=20124 align=”alignleft” width=”155″][/media-credit]“I had some back in the day, in club soccer and stuff, but I haven’t had one in a while,” Garza said. “I was pretty excited. I guess I was just on my game.”
Freshman forward David Opoku was the first on the board, one-touching in a cross from junior midfielder Luis Silva four minutes into the match. After that, it was the Sam Garza show.
Garza scored each of the next three goals for the Gauchos, including two within a minute of each other in the 11th and 12th minutes. It took until the fifth minute of the second half, but Garza completed his hat trick off of an assist from junior midfielder Danny Barrera.
“It’s an important win for us,” Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg said. “We talked about this being the hump game, with two huge games next week, so the tendency might be to overlook somebody. When we are at home, we’re going to play well. It’s been that way all season.”
The Gauchos’ last home loss came in early September, when they lost to Creighton 1-0. Since then, the team has gone 10-1-1 with seven shutouts. Even without junior defender Chris Hunter, who had to sit the match out after receiving a red card against UC Davis, the Gauchos held the Matadors to just seven shots.
Despite the dominant play as of late, the team faces two of its toughest matches yet this week. If it wants to keep pushing the streak, Vom Steeg’s squad will have to bring energy as it travels to Cal Poly for its second nationally-televised game of the season and then to Irvine — the Big West’s other conference championship contender.
“There’s definitely room to improve, as far as putting a 90-minute game together,” Garza explained. “We play really well against good teams which is good, but when we play the lesser teams, we drop our bar and don’t play as hard. In the playoffs, you’re going to get beaten if you do that so you have to show up every game for 90 minutes.”
But with Garza leading a high-powered offense — the team has 30 goals compared to just 11 for opponents — and a versatile defense that allows and average of only .73 goals per game, Vom Steeg recognizes his team’s potential as the College Cup, hosted by UCSB, draws closer.
“We continue to be dangerous and Garza, at this point, is now 16 or 17 games into this season that he missed last season. He’s fit and very comfortable,” Vom Steeg said. “I really feel like I can take this group anywhere.”