It’s never easy to close out a season on a losing note, but Gaucho soccer faced heartbreak yesterday, giving up a 1-0 lead to the Bears with just two minutes to play in regulation, before giving up the match with two seconds remaining in overtime.

[media-credit name=”Jeff Imamura” align=”alignleft” width=”250″][/media-credit]“The whole team is in shock right now,” senior defender Michael Boxall said. “We thought we had done all we needed to get a result, battled hard even with a man down, dominating large parts of the game.”

The match was fast-paced, both teams playing aggressively from the outset. Eight cards were distributed during the match, and both Boxall and junior midfielder Michael Tetteh required stitches after on-field collisions with Cal players. Tetteh also changed his jersey due to blood stains from a gash on his forehead.

One card, dealt in the 24th minute on a ball contested at midfield by UCSB junior midfielder Luis Silva proved to be a game-changer.

Silva slid at the ball while the Golden Bears’ Servando Carrasco tried to corral it, resulting in an altercation in which Carrasco shoved Silva to the ground. Carrasco dropped to the ground shortly after. Silva received a red card and an ejection, while Carrasco received a yellow, forcing UCSB to play the remainder of the match one player down. The call was hotly contested by the Gaucho bench and coaching staff, but to no avail.

“It’s just a regular physical game,” Carrasco said of his run-in with Silva. “We both wanted to win, he came in studs up and he got a red card and we played on. There’s nothing I can say about that. I was mad, but it’s all part of the game.”

Despite Silva’s absence on the field, UCSB still outshot the Bears in the first half six to five and finished the game with 16, nine on goal. One of those shots came in the second half off the foot of Tetteh, which he powered left past the outstretched arms of Berkeley’s goalkeeper David Bingham in the 81st minute.

“Sometimes when you go a man down, you actually play a little bit better,” Cal Head Coach Kevin Grimes said. “You have to work that much harder.”

A called Gaucho handball in the box led to a penalty kick from Carrasco in the 88th minute. Carrasco, in a one-on-one situation with UCSB’s goalkeeper, senior Sam Hayden, managed to put the ball in the back of the net to even the score at one goal apiece.

In overtime, Berkeley’s Davis Paul was able to keep his team’s hopes alive. Paul took a pass in the box and caught Hayden out of position with only two seconds remaining in the first overtime period after Hayden attempted to break up the play on the pass.

UCSB’s early exit from the NCAA playoffs comes in a year when the College Cup — soccer’s version of the Final Four — is to be held in Santa Barbara.

“The idea of playing in Santa Barbara in front of 15 or 16,000 people drove this group and drove the coaching staff,” Vom Steeg said. “We weren’t going to let anything stand in our way, and today was something we couldn’t help.”

The Gauchos finish their season at 14-5-3, having made their ninth straight NCAA appearance. The squad’s three seniors, Hayden, Boxall and forward Joe Eubanks also closed out their careers in Gaucho blue on Sunday.

“To have all those factors against us and still dominate as we did, to outplay Cal at their home, we’re proud of how we played,” Boxall said. “But the most important thing is the result and obviously that didn’t go our way.”

Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg’s post-game press conference dealt largely with the controversial calls on the field and his distaste with the NCAA officiating standards.

“You talk about controlling what you can control, and my guys played their hearts out with a man down,” Vom Steeg said.

Cal now moves on to play Brown next Sunday in the tournament’s third round.