A muddy night in Irvine seemed even colder for the UCSB men’s soccer team when it was defeated 3-2 in double overtime during the Big West Championship match on Saturday night. Senior midfielder Luis Silva had a goal and an assist during the loss, adding to his league-leading 16-goals, but the Gauchos weren’t able to close out the game.
“We got the two-goal lead that we needed to win that game,” Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg said. “We did what we had to do to try and win the game.”
UCSB and UCI entered the second period of extra time deadlocked at 2-2. Irvine was able to attack the Gaucho defense and convert on a rebounded ball that bounced off the goalpost before being tapped in by forward Miguel Ibarra.
With the win, Irvine will likely be seeded among the top 16 teams before beginning the NCAA tournament, guaranteeing the Anteaters a first-round bye and home field advantage. UCSB is also likely to gain a high seeding in the NCAA tournament brackets, in large part due to a preseason schedule that yielded victories against Duke (Sept. 2) and Akron (Oct. 5).
The poor field conditions only worsened as the minutes progressed throughout the game, transforming the once-green pitch into a muddy landscape of potholes and divots.
“The quality of the surface on the field was not great,” Vom Steeg said. “We played Garza and on his first touch [the ball] bounced up and took away a scoring opportunity for us.”
UCI was able to get off eight shots during the first half, compared to just four for UCSB, and took a 1-0 lead going into the break. UCSB responded in the 64th minute when physical play inside the goal box led to a penalty kick by Silva, who has scored on two of his three attempts this year.
“Silva is the best player in the conference,” Vom Steeg said. “He played that way in the biggest game of the year. In my opinion, he’s the offensive MVP of the conference.”
Silva added to his offensive attack less than five minutes later on a free kick from 23 yards outside of the box. A streaking sophomore forward Dom Sarle was able to corral the ball and touch it into the goal, giving UCSB a 2-1 lead.
Irvine had multiple opportunities in the second half to tie the score that were interrupted by the play of junior goalkeeper André Grandt. A breakaway by the UC Irvine offense forced Grandt into a one-on-one situation, where he was able to make the save.
With less than 10 minutes remaining in the game, Grandt again made an influential play for the UCSB defense during a UCI free kick.
“The shot was right on me and I got both hands on the ball,” Grandt said. “Next thing I know, 3-4 [Irvine] players were all sliding into me. I had both my hands on the ball so it was called a foul.”
An Irvine throw-in with just two minutes remaining in regulation made its way to the front of the UCSB goal box, where it was successfully headed in by the Anteater offense. The 2-2 tie pushed the game into double overtime where UCI was able to score off of a rebounded shot and win the tournament championship.