The UCSB men’s soccer team delivered an underwhelming Big West debut, dropping their second match in a row on Wednesday against Sacramento State during their NorCal tour. The rocky start is reflective of the poor on-the-road performance — captured by the 1-5 record — that has so far been the pitfall of the otherwise undefeated group.
Though the Gauchos’ 6-5 overall record still peaks just above the .500 mark, their conference record now sits at 0-1. Equal in total games, their competitors, the Sac State Hornets, fall far below SB, sporting a statistically unthreatening record of 3-6-2. Their defeat over UCSB in game 11 marked their first shutout since their third game back in August.
Nonetheless, Santa Barbara succumbed to the vicious away-game losing cycle in the 79th minute when Sac State’s Matt Carnefix launched a low ball into the net for the only goal of the game — his first of the season.
Freshman forward Benji Kikanovic stole a deflection off of the foot of SB’s Faouzi Taieb, allowing him to break away toward the center of the field. Kikanovic found Carnefix undefended on the far side of the box and executed a routine pass to instigate the goal.
It was perhaps here that the UCSB roster missed goalie Ben Roach the most. Roach received a red card in the Gauchos’ last match against Cal Poly; this was the freshman’s first time not defending the net since the onset of the season.
Standing in his place for his own seasonal debut was sophomore Alan Carillo. Despite the singular goal, Carillo appeared experienced and in control guarding the net. He tallied five saves in total, the most threatening one occurring almost immediately after Sac State scored.
On the opposing side, rookie Ryan Curtis started his first collegiate game and matched Carillo with a career-high five saves on the night.
The Hornets’ goal, though the ultimate mark of defeat, refreshed what seemed like one of Santa Barbara’s slowest games this season. The Gauchos failed to tally even one shot over the course of the first half, an unfamiliar statistic previously unseen amid their 2018 record.
The second half, however, took a much different — yet, similarly unproductive — tone. UCSB’s offense began their attack immediately following the starting whistle, taking 12 shots from the 46th minute up until the final two minutes of the game.
With just under seven minutes left in the game, the frontmen of SB’s roster made six final attempts at finding a last-minute equalizer, two of them being rips on goal.
The Gauchos now seek redemption as they travel down the coast and back to their untainted territory in Santa Barbara. UCSB remains undefeated on home turf, a record the roster will not let slip out of their hands easily.
Gearing up to take on Cal State Fullerton, Santa Barbara must find a way to break through their two-game offensive stagnancy especially while facing Fullerton’s standout goalie Paul-Andre Guerin, who was named this week’s Big West Defensive Player of the Week.
The Titans come into Saturday’s matchup with a lackluster 4-2-6 record, however, they have gained some steam heading into conference play with two wins against LMU and USF and a tie against CSUN. Their offense has been spearheaded by seniors Samuel Goni and Ross McPhie, with the former leading the team in goals (4) and the latter leading the squad in assists (4).
This juxtaposition between the more experienced and tactical front line of the Titans and the youthful attack of the Gauchos should lead to an enticing clash of play styles, and hopefully a lot of goals.
The Cal State Fullerton Titans threaten Harder Stadium and our winning record this Saturday at 7 p.m. for the second game of Big West conference play.
A version of this story appeared in the October 4th print edition of the Daily Nexus on page 06.