The UC Irvine Men’s Soccer team ended their season falling short against their rival, the 15th-ranked UC Santa Barbara Gauchos 1-0 on a wet and windy Saturday night in double overtime as the Anteaters bid farewell to seniors Anthony Vizcarra and Chris Ruiz on Nov. 15.
‘I feel we were the better team. We outplayed Santa Barbara in many respects. I think the team played extremely well,’ said Head Coach George Kuntz.
Gaucho senior Gene Deering was able to put one past UCI junior goalkeeper Cameron Rossi and finished the game at 2:31 in the second overtime.
‘I wish we would have won, but we played well,’ Ruiz said.
The Anteaters (6-11-3, 3-4-3 Big West) and Gauchos fought a long and arduous battle for 102 minutes in the final conference play in the Big West.
UCSB (15-4-1, 7-3-0) had an early shot on goal in the second minute of the game. However, both teams would not let down as the possession and intensity rapidly shifted between the teams.
UCSB put one past Rossi but was not counted because of an off-sides call, one of nine Gaucho off-sides calls compared to UCI’s one off-sides violation. The match remained scoreless at the half.
Roles were reversed at the start of the second half as UCI was the first to attack and shoot on goal with a give-and-go sequence down the right, courtesy of freshman midfielder Drew Tolman and senior midfielder Anthony Vizcarra at the 47th minute.
The Gauchos retaliated by regaining possession from nearly missing a goal from a deflected shot on the Anteater right post.
As the second half was approaching the end, the Anteater defense cleared the ball from their half while pushing up their defense to the Gaucho half as well.
Neither team was ready to admit defeat.
Toward the close of the second half, UCSB junior defender Tony Lochhead shielded a dead ball from Iliff in battle that was reminiscent of a wrestling match.
‘Santa Barbara is a physical team but we played well with them,’ Kuntz said.
UCI’s defense pressured the Gaucho half, allowing sophomore defender Daniel Marshall to fire a shot 30 yards out nearly inches above the crossbar.
The physical match became borderline personal with players on both sides fouling, as Gauchos and Anteaters were being tossed around like rag dolls.
Tactical strategy and short game possession was nonexisting during the final minutes of the second half as both teams took any shot possible and legally defended with any body part they could. After 90 minutes of intense soccer, neither team was able to score resulting in the first of two 10- minute sudden death overtimes.
Gaucho senior midfielders David McGill and Memo Azrate assisted Deering’s game-winning goal early into the second overtime, ending the Anteaters’ 2003 season.
‘I think as the game went on, we wore them down a little in the back,’ said UC Santa Barbara Head Coach Tom Von Steeg. ‘It was a great match. The goalkeeper played unbelievably well.’
‘It was unfortunate we couldn’t get a goal but we played a lot stronger tonight,’ Vizcarra said.
Ruiz and Vizcarra will continue playing together on the local Blue Star soccer team. Vizcarra intends to travel overseas to play soccer and possibly come back and play professionally in the U.S.
‘Chris and Anthony are both stellar. They have been great seniors for us,’ Kuntz said.
With only two seniors departing, the young team has a bright and victorious season ahead of them. ‘The guys have played competitive all year long and have grown and progressed extremely well,’ Kuntz said. ‘The future holds a lot for us. I am very proud of our team.’