In the final game of the Gauchos’ three-game home stand, junior winger Ahinga Selemani’s scrappy fifth-minute goal was cancelled out [20 minutes later by a Hornet free kick. Despite dominating possession and creating far more chances, UCSB was ultimately unable to find a winner, but the double overtime draw keeps the side undefeated in conference.
Santa Barbara now sits at 3-0-2 in the Big West (7-5-2 overall), and with plenty of confidence built back up, the team is currently on a five-game unbeaten run on the back of its five-game losing streak — just in time for the Blue-Green Rivalry at Cal Poly on Saturday. Sac State remains in second in the North division, trailing only the Gauchos, at 2-2-1 (6-5-2).
UCSB struck first when senior All-American striker Nick DePuy dispossessed Hornet junior midfielder Paul Geyer before turning up the field. His pass to the left wing was deflected into Selemani’s path on the right side of goal, as the winger muscled off his defender and hit home. The Ann Arbor native has now scored in three-straight matches, including two game winners that won him the most recent Big West Offensive Player of the Week honor.
After 20 minutes more of Gaucho attacks and Sac State counter attacks, the visitors were rewarded in the 26th minute when Geyer was fouled off the ball near the edge of the box to give the Hornets their best chance of the game. Senior striker Alex Bettencourt, who leads Sacramento with five goals on the year, hit his free kick through a small gap in the UCSB wall to catch keeper Titouan Le Roux off guard to equalize the game at 1-1.
“I thought we did a lot of good things, we got the early goal and jumped on the early lead, but then we just give up that goal,” SB Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg said. “The unlucky part of it is that even if your wall breaks up just a little bit, there’s still four guys standing in front, so it takes a bit of luck along the way.”
UCSB outshot the Hornets 16-5 in the match, but were kept out by the post by Sac State junior keeper James Del Curto a total of five times, including a huge save on a DePuy header with just a couple minutes remaining in regulation. The Gauchos also dominated in overtime, outshooting their opponents 3-0 in the extra 20 minutes, but neither side was unable to find the winner.
“I think we hit 25 crosses in from the right hand side,” Vom Steeg said. “You don’t have to connect on all of them, you just have to connect on one, but if you tell me we’re gonna have that many crosses, I was surprised we didn’t find something.”
The Santa Barbara attack looked strong with freshman Noah Billingsley filling in more centrally while junior midfielder Kevin Feucht got further forward, with each player taking four shots to go with DePuy’s five. Unfortunately for the home team, the final touch was just off on the night as neither team could grab the win.
“I think we’re all just trying to get the ball up the field and get as many opportunities as we can, but I know I need to do a better job of finishing,” DePuy said. “It’ll come, but all I can do is keep working and creating opportunities to score.”
After the goals were scored, both defenses played very well, and even though the Hornet back line was called upon far more often. The Gauchos were up to the task, coming up with some key stops to hold onto the first positive result in Sac State history at Harder Stadium, losing in every previous trip to Santa Barbara. The draw was the Gauchos’ second of the season, and Vom Steeg’s side is now 2-2-2 in overtime games this season.
Next up for the Gauchos is the away leg of the Cal Poly rivalry on Saturday in San Luis Obispo. The Mustangs enter the match at 1-3-1 in BWC (3-7-2 overall) but boast one of the best home field advantages in the conference, earning five of their wins and ties at Spanos Stadium.
The game will be broadcasted on Fox Sports and an audio stream will be available on the men’s soccer schedule page of the ucsbgauchos.com website. Follow @thenexus_sports for all Gauchos soccer news.
this writer really knows his stuff.