In its final two games before the beginning of Big West play, the UCSB men’s soccer team went undefeated this weekend with a 4-1 win over Drake University and a 1-0 victory over San Diego State.
The Gauchos improve to 4-3-1 on the season with their latest win over Drake on Sunday. The Bulldogs fell to 2-5-2. San Diego came into the weekend hot after winning five of its last six games, but UCSB was able to earn its first shutout of the season against the Aztecs, dropping them to 5-3 overall.
“In general it was very good,” Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg said after the Gauchos’ latest win. “We talked about having good momentum going into Thursday night against Northridge and going into the conference, and I can’t think of a better way to win a game with some momentum and feel good about things than tonight. Pretty happy about the performance.”
While getting goals on the board had been a point of emphasis for Santa Barbara this past week, that was not a problem in Sunday night’s game with Drake.
It didn’t take long for the Gauchos to score as in the third minute, senior right back Kevin-Garcia Lopez made a run down the right wing before playing it across to forward Ludwig Ahl on the right side of the box. The freshman was able to keep the shot low as he placed it into the right side of the net, giving the Gauchos’ their fastest scored goal this season.
“We talked about being dangerous, and I thought we were dangerous right from the get-go,” Vom Steeg said. “Our gameplan was to get on the board early and get good wide play from [Lopez] on the right and [sophomore midfielder Ismaila Jome] on the left. Sometimes you draw things up and it actually works and I tonight we got the ball in the right spots early and that first goal was really important.”
UCSB kept the early pressure on and was able to capitalize off poor defending in the 21st minute. Left back Drew Murphy joined the attack before playing a 1-2 to Ahl and finding space at the edge of the box. The sophomore was then able to waltz through the defense against a weak challenge before scoring an easy tap-in goal past the keeper.
“It’ll never happen again, it’s like they wanted everything but the ball,” Murphy joked. “It made me look good, a lot better than it was. I wouldn’t expect something like that again.”
In the 28th minute, Murphy returned the favor, finding Ahl at the near post off a corner kick. Ahl finished it with a high, first-touch shot into the top left corner of the net, giving him a brace on the day.
“[Ludwig] had the same look on Friday night and he put it over the bar, so I thought he took real good care of that thing to keep it down and tucked it in,” Vom Steeg said. “We got the ball in the right places, we put it in the right spot and I thought it was a great finish.”
The Gauchos ended up tacking on one more when in the 82nd minute, senior forward Reed McKenna got past his defender with a nice move on the right side of the box. He then set himself up for a shot on his favored left foot and fired it into the right corner of the net.
What should have been a second straight shutout for UCSB and freshman goalkeeper Brandon Berke could not be preserved, however, as in the 85th minute, a Drake player earned a penalty after being knocked down in the box. Junior defender Alec Bartlett stepped up to put away his first goal of the season, placing his shot into the right side of the net while Berke dove the other way.
In Friday’s game against San Diego State, the Gauchos shook up their lineup looking to bounce back from being shutout at home against No. 1 UCLA last week. Berke got the first start of his career at goalkeeper, filling in for injured sophomore goalkeeper Josh McNeely, and sophomore midfielder/defender Nick DePuy got the start at forward.
The switch paid off, as DePuy got his team on the board in the 21st minute. A low-cross from Murphy took Aztec freshman goalkeeper Adam Allmaras off his line to slap the ball away, accidentally sending it right to DePuy, who easily put away his second goal of the season.
Despite giving up three shots on goal and twelve in total, UCSB was able to earn its first shutout of the year behind Berke and his three saves. The Gauchos also had one of their most productive weekends offensively, getting off 33 shots through two games with 15 on frame.
UCSB will return to action this Thursday at 7:00 p.m. when it opens up its conference schedule against Cal State Northridge.