SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Second-seeded UC Santa Barbara (14-5-1) has advanced to its fourth-consecutive Big West Tournament Championship game after defeating No. 3 seed UC Davis (7-8-4), 2-1, during a semifinal game on Wednesday night at Meredith Field at Harder Stadium.
The Gauchos will face No. 1 seed UC Irvine in Irvine, Calif. on Saturday in the championship game at 7 p.m. This marks the third time in the past four years that the Anteaters and Gauchos will battle it out for the tournament title and the conference's automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament.
Junior Sam Garza got the Gauchos on the scoreboard in the 17th minute when, after being pulled down in the box on a counter attack, he was able to convert a penalty kick with a shot to the right side of the Aggie goal. It was Garza's eighth goal of the season.
The Gauchos stretched that lead to 2-0 in the second half when David Opoku – who had gotten a couple open looks that went high in the opening minutes of the game – scored in the 61st minute. Peter Schmetz started the play with a pass to Garza, who dribbled into the box and then tapped the ball to Opoku on his left side. The sophomore sent a rolling shot to the right corner of the goal for his eighth goal of the season.
UC Davis was able to cut the UCSB lead to one goal in the 80th minute when Dan Reese headed the ball in from the right post off of a free kick from Lance Patterson.
The Aggies continued to fight and had a couple of near misses in the waning minutes, but André Grandt came up with a pair of great saves to preserve the Gaucho win.
UCSB and UC Davis were even with 12 shots apiece, the Gauchos had six on-frame and the Aggies had five. Grandt ended the game with four saves as did Aggie goalkeeper Omar Zeenni.
Luis Silva led all players with four shots, but ended the game without a goal, ending his scoring streak at five games.
Fans that are unable to make the trek to Irvine on Saturday can catch all of the Big West Tournament Final action live on AM 1290 KCSB, the Santa Barbara News-Press Radio station. To listen online, click here.