Dramatic endings are becoming a common theme for the UCSB men’s soccer team and luckily for the Gauchos, they are finding themselves on the right side of those endings. Santa Barbara concluded the weekend with a 2-1 overtime victory over No. 4 Cal State Northridge Friday night before a double overtime 2-1 victory over UC Irvine on Sunday.
Santa Barbara’s two weekend victories raised the Gauchos’ record to 9-4 overall and 4-0 in conference, extending their win streak to five straight as they are the sole undefeated team in the Big West.
“[These were] very crucial wins, it’s an advantage to win those games but the tough ones are ahead,” senior forward Achille Campion said. “We didn’t play well but came through and got the win. So the team spirit is at its highest. We have a good week now to get prepared for the next game.”
Sunday’s victory truly was improbable as UCSB fell behind 1-0 after an Irvine first-half goal. Following sophomore defender Marshall Cazares’ pair of yellow cards in the 53rd minute, the Gauchos were left one man down.
The disadvantage did not stop UCSB, however, as junior forward Reed McKenna notched the game at 1-1 with a 62nd minute goal that flew between the goalkeeper and the left post for his first career goal. Freshman midfielder Drew Murphy contributed on the play for his team-leading sixth assist on the season.
“We never give up and even people that aren’t used to stepping up stepped up today,” Campion said.
After a scoreless rest of the second half and first overtime, the Gauchos received another goal from an even more unlikely source in junior defender Kevin Garcia-Lopez. Garcia-Lopez received the ball on the other side of the field and dribbled all the way to the goal, sending a shot inside the right post for the golden goal.
Irvine fell to 7-4-2 on the season and 2-2 in conference, defeating Cal Poly 2-0 on Friday night before facing UCSB.
“Today was as improbable as it gets. We had a defender pick up a ball 70 yards away from goal and score,” Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg said. “Literally in all my years in soccer I don’t know if I can recall a play like that, it was really unbelievable.”
Friday’s contest proved to be equally dramatic as the Gauchos faced the highest ranked opponent they have faced all season in No. 4 Northridge.
UCSB fell behind 1-0 before defender Peter Schmetz recorded his third goal of the season with little time to spare in the 87th minute. Murphy assisted on the goal for his fifth of the season.
Campion then gave UCSB an important victory over a ranked opponent with a successful penalty kick in the 100th minute. Northridge raised its record to 11-2 and 3-1 in the Big West after defeating Cal Poly Sunday.
“We played two really tough games against two good teams on the road,” Vom Steeg said. “I thought we played fairly well on Friday night and it was great that we were able to win. The game tonight we didn’t play well at all but again still found a way to win. Everyone’s pretty proud of where things are right now.”
UCSB next faces UC Davis on Saturday for a 3 p.m. start. The Gauchos hold a two-game advantage over second place Davis in the Big West North.
A version of this article appeared on page 5 of October 14, 2013’s print edition of The Daily Nexus.
Photo by Peter Vandenbelt of The Daily Nexus.