September 28, 2011

No. 7 UCSB Drops Big West Opener to UC Riverside, 3-1

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – Backed by its biggest crowd this season, UC Riverside upset visiting No. 7 UC Santa Barbara, 3-1, on Wednesday night in both teams' Big West Conference opener at the UCR Soccer Stadium in front of 2,016 fans. 

With the loss, UCSB drops to 6-2-1 on the season and 0-1 in league games. The Highlanders improve to 6-2-1 and open with a 1-0 league mark. This marked just the third loss in program history to UCR; the last was a 1-0 defeat on Oct. 11, 2006 in Riverside.

Tonight's match could probably best be described as a tale of two halves.

UCR struck early when Alex Racca's service into the box found Cesar Diaz Pizarro on the left post. Diaz Pizarro headed the ball in to give the Highlanders a 1-0 lead in just the 11th minute.

Santa Barbara wasted little time and got its equalizer just six minutes after the Highlander's goal. Mathew Glodack began the play in the midfield when he connected with Luis Silva. The midfielder fed the ball to Machael David, who was on the far side of the box.

UCR goalkeeper Cody Suppe came off of his line in an attempt to beat David to the ball, but was unsuccessful. Before colliding with Suppe, David quickly crossed the ball to David Opoku, who headed it into the wide open goal from the left post.

It was Opoku's fifth goal of the season and David's third assist. 

The Gauchos continued to control the pace for the remainder of the first half and out-shot UCR 9-7.

Coming out of halftime, the momentum quickly shifted towards the Highlanders. 

Joel Garcia and Ben Sperber each fired off a shot in the first two minutes, forcing Gaucho goalkeeper André Grandt to make a pair of athletic saves. 

In the 59th minute, Aaron Long took a low shot from 20 yards out and Grandt went to his knees to grab the ball, which took an unfortunate bounce over his shoulder and into the goal to give Riverside the lead once again at 2-1.

Then in the 69th minute, the Highlanders were able to further distance themselves. From midfield, Racca spotted Richie Osborne sprinting down the left touch line and sent him a long ball. Osborne was able to get behind the Gaucho defense and create a one-on-one opportunity with the goalie. As Grandt came out of the goal, Osborne shot to the far post to push the Highlander lead to two goals.

The Gauchos continued to battle in the waning minutes, but they were unable to break through as they fell, 3-1.

For the game, Santa Barbara led the shot count, 21-18, with Luis Silva leading all players with eight shots and four on-goal.

Grandt made six saves for the Gauchos while Suppe ended the game with eight stops for UCR.

UCSB will look to bounce back on Saturday, Oct. 1 when it hosts No. 7 UC Irvine in a Big West match at Meredith Field at Harder Stadium. The 7 p.m. game will not only be a match-up of two consensus top-10 teams, but also between the defending Big West regular season champions (UCI) and the defending Big West Tournament champions.

To purchase tickets to Saturday's game, visit the Athletics Ticket Office in the ICA Building on campus, call 805-893-UCSB or click here to buy online.