The game seemed locked up. It looked as if the No. 16 UCSB men’s soccer team had beaten rival Cal Poly. But a goal with 1:06 remaining in regulation and a golden goal almost exactly six minutes into the first overtime gave the Mustangs its first win over the Gauchos at Harder Stadium since 1998.
With the loss, Santa Barbara slips to 9-3-3 overall and 3-3-1 in the Big West, leaving the team in last place in the North Division and three points out of playoff contention. Cal Poly improves to 9-5-1 overall and 4-2-1 in conference, placing them in a tie with Sac State for second.
“It’s a difficult loss,” senior midfielder Nic Ryan said. “We outworked them … I thought we outplayed them the whole game besides that last minute [in regulation]. That gave them some momentum, and they came into the overtime and got that goal.”
While both teams went into halftime deadlocked at 0-0, the first half saw plenty of chances for both sides. In fact, 36 shots were taken, with 21 put on frame, proving why the Blue-Green rivalry is one of best matchups in college soccer. UCSB dominated the shot count, doubling up on Cal Poly 24-12 while taking five more shots on goal.
Finally, in the 75th minute, the Gauchos found the back of the net. Ryan put UCSB on the board on a diving header crossed into the left side of the box by freshman midfielder Ema Boateng. The goal was Ryan’s eighth of the season.
“After he scored, I personally thought that was it,” junior midfielder Fifi Baiden said. “I thought the game was done. He got an amazing ball from Ema and it was an amazing run by Nic … it was perfect. It was an incredible goal.”
While UCSB thought it had the victory, the Mustangs had a different idea. With time winding down, sophomore goalkeeper Austin Mansker came out to block the shot of junior forward Mackenzie Pridham. In an already physical game, Pridham and Mansker collided and the ball fell right into the feet of junior midfielder George Malki, who scored on an open goal with 1:06 remaining and leveled the game at one apiece.
“I don’t quite understand why we’re hanging out in [Cal Poly’s] 18-yard box when there’s one minute left,” head coach Tim Vom Steeg said. “All we had to do was stay behind the ball.”
The Mustangs went into overtime with momentum. They took the only two shots of the period, connecting on the second approximately six minutes into overtime.
Against a tired Gaucho squad, Pridham and senior midfielder Chris Gaschen played a two-man game in the box. Pridham fired a shot from the six-yard box into the opposite corner of the goal, stunning the 13,467-member audience (the fourth-largest attendance at Harder Stadium).
“Our guys were dead,” Vom Steeg said. “We’re just not deep enough to go into overtime and of course, emotionally they were spent because [they] think the game’s won.”
Pridham proved why he is one of the best forwards in the league, tallying a goal and an assist on the night. He recorded five shots, all on goal, en route to scoring his ninth goal of the year and his fifth game-winner.
“The problem is that we didn’t clear any of those balls,” Vom Steeg said. “We just left the ball there for him to do something with.”
While the game was exciting offensively, some incredible goalkeeping was also on display. While Mansker tallied a season-high six saves, Cal Poly’s keeper, freshman Wade Hamilton, saved 12 shots, a career high.
Having lost three of its last four games, Santa Barbara will look to rebound next weekend when the team hosts Stanford and UC Davis.