A 2-0 victory over visiting Cal Poly capped a four-game winning streak for the UCSB men’s soccer team as it closed out its regular season Friday night. After opening with a 2-4 record through the first six games of conference play, the win against the Mustangs has helped land the Gauchos in the Big West Conference Tournament once again.
“We had really hit rock bottom,” junior forward Sam Garza said. “To come back and get a 2-Nil win against Cal Poly on senior night was amazing.”
UCSB finishes its regular season schedule with a 13-5-1 overall record and a 6-4 mark in conference. Cal Poly closes out its season 6-9-3 overall with a 3-6-1 mark in conference play.
After yielding to a 0-0 first half tie, UCSB opened the second half with a quick score by Garza, who was able to overtake the Mustang defense on the right side of the goal box less than three minutes into play.
“I had two guys on me,” Garza said. “I split the two guys, took it to my right and shot it.”
The Gaucho defense was strong enough to limit junior goalkeeper André Grandt to one save en route to his seventh shut-out of the season. Key slide tackles and a defensive effort from senior Tim Pontius poised the back line against the Mustang offense, which upset UCSB 2-1 in the previous match between the teams.
“[Tim] played like a senior tonight,” Vom Steeg said. “Our defense challenged them to get the shut-out.”
Midfielder Luis Silva was the only senior to score on his night of celebration, adding to his league-leading tally of 15 goals on the season. Assisted by junior forward Dom Sarle, Silva slipped past the defense to score with just 12:38 remaining
“I sprinted right behind the centerback,” Silva said. “And [Sarle] played me a nice ball; he timed it right. I took a touch around the goalkeeper and put it away.”
UCSB held a 19-11 advantage in shots taken, including 10 on goal, compared to just one for the Mustangs. With the victory, UCSB’s home win streak against Cal Poly stretches to 14 games dating back to November 1998.
A pre-game celebration honored the individual careers of five senior members of the squad — Pontius, midfielder Gaby Okito, forward Waid Ibrahim, midfielder James Kiffe and Silva.
A UC Davis tie against UC Riverside on Saturday allowed UCSB to draw a No. 2 seed in the Big West tournament. The Gauchos will host No. 3 UCD at home on Wednesday for the first semifinal game of the tournament. No. 1 UC Irvine and No. 4 Riverside will face each other in the other semifinal game.