OMAHA, Neb. –
The brightly shining sun was a false sign of hope for the UCSB men’s soccer team Sunday in Omaha, Nebraska.
35-degree weather set the tone for a harsh 2-1 loss against Creighton University in the third round of the NCAA men’s soccer tournament.
UCSB was able to score a goal against a Creighton defense that had previously allowed only one goal in all of its home games this season and only four games on the year. The goal came with just over 11 minutes remaining in the match when a cross pass by junior forward Dom Sarle was met by sophomore forward David Opoku just yards in front of the goal keeper.
Opoku’s header served as the only offensive success for the Gauchos, who were held to just nine shots throughout the game, and only two on goal. Creighton attempted 17 shots overall, including twelve attempts in the first half that yielded two goals.
Both of Creighton’s goals were scored on dead-ball plays, the first a penalty against junior forward Sam Garza within the box just seven minutes into the first half. Garza’s foul call was met with frustration from the UCSB sideline and allowed Creighton’s Bruno Castro to put the Blue Jays up 1-0 on the PK.
“It was about the worst way to start a game,” Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg said. “We were very confused as to what the call even was. He had told Sam Garza not to hold [Creighton’s Ethan Finlay] and Sam said he was not holding him, but obviously referee saw differently.”
A second goal came just ten minutes later when Andrew Ribeiro was able to connect on a corner kick play. Ribeiro’s low strike on the ground after a deflection was made amidst a swarm of blue and white jerseys, and crept past junior goalkeeper Andre Grandt to push the Blue Jay lead to 2-0, a margin that UCSB was unable to overcome.
“It was really tough coming back from two goals down early on,” Sarle said. “We had a chance in the last ten minutes but it’s always tough going down two like that. Especially against Creighton who has only given up a handful of goals all year.”
The game was physical throughout the 90-minute stretch. Questionable calls toward the end of regulation were met with furious reactions from the UCSB sideline, including the ejection of assistant coach Greg Curry with just over five minutes remaining in the game. The ejection came after Curry’s reaction toward a yellow-card call against senior midfielder Luis Silva that sent a Creighton player to the ground in front of the UCSB bench. Two yellow cards were issued to Creighton, while three were given to UCSB. The Gauchos also received two red cards, both with under five minutes remaining in the match.
Grandt had arguably his best performance of the year with a season-high eight saves throughout the match. Opoku led all shooters with three shots. League-leading scorer Luis Silva was held to just two shot attempts, and none on goal.
Silva finishes his collegiate career ranked fifth in the nation with 17 goals and third in the nation in total points with 44, which also ties him for No. 1 in UCSB history for points in a season.
With the loss, UCSB’s 2011 campaign comes to an end. Creighton advances to the next round of the NCAA tournament and will host the winner of New Mexico vs. USF.