Being on the wrong side of a 20-game undefeated streak was not something the UCSB men’s soccer team wanted to leave the field with last night. Instead, the Gauchos put away three goals — including an overtime game-winner by senior midfielder Luis Silva — to upset the No. 3 Akron Zips at Harder Stadium.
“As long as we kept the pressure on we knew they were going to make mistakes and get tired,” Silva said. “Energy was the key to this game.”
With the win, the No. 15 Gauchos move to 7-3-1 on the season, and remain 0-2 in league play. Akron suffered its first defeat since October of last year, and with the loss drops to 7-1-2 overall and remains 1-0 in conference play.
The Gauchos’ goal-scoring woes of late remained visible throughout the first half, as UCSB was unable to score on any of its nine attempts and left for the locker room down 0-1 after the first 45 minutes of play. Coming out of halftime, the Gauchos were forced to return from a place they had only experienced against conference foes this season: being down during the first half.
“Going down to Akron in the first half, you give them all the confidence they need,” Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg said. “And to turn it around and come out and play that kind of second half was great.”
Silva’s game-tying goal in the second half was the beginning of a five-minute sequence that would set an energetic pace for the rest of the game. A cross by sophomore forward Dom Sarle gave Silva the opportunity to score in the midst of Akron defenders.
“We got the ball in dangerous situations, especially in the second half,” Vom Steeg said. “Not only did [Silva] get the two goals but he was absolutely great in the middle of the field.”
A goal by Sarle just two minutes later gave the Gauchos their first lead in a game since a victory over Sacramento State on Sept. 25. Senior midfielder James Kiffe’s shot to the low left side was rebounded and placed past the Akron goalkeeper with just over 25 minutes remaining in the game.
Only two minutes elapsed before the score was tied again, this time by Akron junior forward Thomas Schmitt. A centered pass from the left side of the box was corralled and fired in just yards in front of the box.
UCSB maintained possession of the ball throughout the first minute of overtime, which was enough for Silva to score a goal and secure the 3-2 victory.
“[The ball] popped out to Kiffe and I saw him run straight into the box,” Silva said. “I saw him cutting and the ball got to my feet and I just tapped it in.”
It was Silva’s seventh goal of the year, placing him atop the Big West in goals for the season.
After scoring just three goals in the three games prior to the match against Akron, and taking over 40 shots during that stretch, the trio of goals last night was welcome reassurance for the Gaucho offense.
“It’s a relief getting three goals against the defending national champions,” Kiffe said. “It shows a lot of character for our team.”
UCSB returns to Big West conference play this weekend when it travels to Davis for a game against the Aggies on Saturday at 3 p.m.