UC Santa Barbara Guacho Neil Jones’ goal in the second overtime gave No. 1 UCSB a 1-0 victory on Nov. 12 over the UC Irvine Men’s Soccer team at Anteater Stadium.
With the loss, the Anteaters fall to 7-12 overall and 3-6 in the Big West Conference.
‘UCSB has a lot of lopsided wins and we played them very close,’ said UCI Head Coach George Kuntz. ‘It was a fantastic effort from our guys and this is a building block for the future of this team.’
‘It’s disappointing to lose on a fluke goal. It wasn’t even a built play,’ Kuntz said.
Senior goalkeeper Cameron Rossi had eight saves for UCI. He was one of only three seniors introduced to the crowd of 1,087 before their final home match.
‘We are much younger than [UCSB]. Age-wise, we played great,’ said Kuntz.
UCI won the first meeting between these two teams, 1-0, on Oct. 21 in Santa Barbara and almost completed an improbable season sweep. Senior forward Lorne Howlett created several scoring opportunities in the second half including a drive past four defenders in the 75th minute, but it ended with a shot well over the crossbar.
‘We pressured them the whole time and we played a great game,’ Howlett said. ‘But the ball bounced the wrong way and the score is all that matters … We need to get more of our shots on target.’
UCSB (17-2-1, 8-2-0) pressed the ball most of the night and had 10 shots on goal compared to UCI’s two.
‘Irvine is always a tough game and this is a hard, fast field,’ said Gaucho Assistant Coach Leo Chappel.
‘We knew tonight would be tough, but this game was important, Chappel said. ‘NCAA seeding is coming up and we needed to win here to try and secure home field advantage.’
The Anteaters chased all over the back line and made it difficult for UCSB to create space, but they could not break the Guacho’s defense. UCI senior forward Sebastian Galmarini did not play for the 11th time this season.
‘They had all of their guns and we didn’t,’ said Kuntz. ‘This is the story of our season. We have played hard in a lot of close games that have not gone our way … Our defense played great and that helped keep us in the game.’
Rossi said, ‘I saw the hole opening up and I should have gotten up.’ He added, ‘Overall, our trapping was good. We had some trouble clearing it a few times, but we picked it up.’
Rossi was somber as he dressed for a postgame autograph session with fans, but his coach was quick to remind him how well he had just played against the nation’s top-ranked team.
‘It’s a great feeling to play [UCSB] so close,’ Rossi said. ‘We played our hearts out tonight.’
Sophomore forward Brad Evans led UCI with three shots while freshman defender Brandon Foster had a key trap in the 85th minute to keep an offensive threat alive.
Sophomore midfielder Brandon Tario came off the bench and had two shots for the Anteaters, who managed only two corner kicks in the match and none in the second half.
‘To have [UCSB] ranked Number one is great for our conference. The West Coast is very strong overall,’ said Kuntz.