After a promising and historic year, the No. 10 UCSB men’s soccer team’s season came to an end Sunday night in a 1-0 loss to Penn State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Santa Barbara finishes the season with a final overall record of 12-6-3 after a historic undefeated 7-0-3 mark in the Big West. No. 18 Penn State, the Big 10 champions, stand at 13-5-2 on the season and will advance to the third round of the NCAA Tournament where they will take on No. 11 New Mexico on Dec. 1.
“I thought our team played well tonight. Our seniors left it all on the field,” Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg said. “I thought we had great performances. We entered into tonight with a little bit of a problem. We have a 28-man roster and we had 14 players suited up.”
Injury issues and previous red cards plagued the Gauchos entering Sunday night. A red card to senior defensive midfielder Fifi Baiden in the sixth minute of the game did not help the shorthanded Gauchos as UCSB was forced to play a man down for basically the entirety of the game.
“Fifi was the only player on the field that has played in an NCAA playoff game,” Vom Steeg said. “Seven minutes in we went down to zero players that have played in a playoff game.”
Despite playing a man down, UCSB controlled the ball for much of the first half and matched Penn State with three first half shots apiece. Both teams went into the half scoreless.
The second half proved to be the difference for the Nittany Lions as freshman forward Connor Maloney gave Penn State a 1-0 lead with a strike from 18 yards out in the 78th minute. Penn State finished the night with 10 shots compared to just four for UCSB, including a four-to-one advantage in shots on goal.
“Obviously, [we’re] very disappointed to lose a goal. When we went down, it was just roll your sleeves up and fight and it’s what we’ve done all year,” senior defender Daniel Welsh said. “It’s a season to build on for next year for the guys who are coming back. I’m very happy the way it’s all ended in a way in a way, disappointed obviously at the same time.”
Senior forward Achille Campion returned from injury to add an offensive weapon for the Gauchos. UCSB was still without three starters, however, as senior defender Peter Schmetz sat due to injury, and freshman midfielder Drew Murphy and junior defender Kevin Garcia-Lopez both missed Sunday’s game because of drawn red cards.
Losing Baiden to a red card early in the match certainly dealt a big blow to an already depleted Gaucho roster.
“Fifi, I thought, was going to have to be the most important player on the field for us to win tonight,” Vom Steeg said. “Obviously, that call dramatically changed [the game].”
Penn State defeated St. Francis Brooklyn 1-0 on Thursday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament while the Gauchos received a first-round bye as one of the top-16 ranked teams.
“We have enough on this field if our seniors show up to go win this game tonight,” Vom Steeg said. “Our seniors did show up tonight, and they showed up in a big way, but we gave up the one shot.”
UCSB will next play in August 2014.
A version of this article appeared on page 5 of November 25, 2013’s print edition of The Daily Nexus.
Photo by Eric Swenson of The Daily Nexus.