OMAHA, Nebraska – In a battle between one of the country's best offensive teams and its best defensive team, defense won out on Sunday afternoon as No. 2 seeded Creighton defeated No. 15 seeded UC Santa Barbara, 2-1, at the Bluejay's Morrison Stadium.
With the loss, the Gauchos finish their 2011 campaign with a 15-7-1 overall record. Creighton improves to 20-2 and will advance to play the winner between No. 7 South Florida and No. 10 New Mexico in the NCAA Tournament Quarterfinals.
Michael Chavez had the only shot in the last 11 minutes of the game, but it was blocked out and the Gauchos were unable to capitalize on the resulting corner kick.
The Bluejays had gotten on the scoreboard early in the first half. In the seventh minute, Andrew Ribeiro took a shot that Tim Pontius deflected out, setting the stage for a Creighton corner kick. During the set piece, the referee called a penalty on the Gauchos in the box. Bruno Castro netted the penalty kick for the Bluejays with a shot to the right side of the goal.
Creighton used another set piece to build its lead to two in the 19th minute. Jose Gomez crossed the ball on a Bluejay corner kick to Greg Jordan, who headed the ball to Ribeiro. The midfielder sent a shot from eight yards out into the back of the Gaucho net.
UCSB had a handful of opportunities in the first half including a counter attack in the 21st minute. Sarle tapped the ball to Michael Nonni, who played the ball on the ground to Luis Silva. The senior ran around his defender before sending a blast from 16 yards out, but a Bluejay defender blocked it.
Silva sent another missile towards the goal in the 31st minute from 20 yards out, but the shot sailed wide.
In the first half, Creighton out-shot the Gauchos, 12-5 and did not allow a shot on-goal. The second half was more evenly matched with the Bluejays holding a 5-4 shot advantage. Opoku led the Gauchos with three shots while Silva and Sam Garza each had two.
Aside from Opoku's goal in the second half, UCSB managed just one additional shot on-frame – a header by Peter Schmetz during a set piece that was cleared by the Creighton defense. The two shots on-goal marked the Gauchos' fewest in a game this season.
Junior goalkeeper André Grandt had arguably his best game in a Gaucho jersey as he posted a career-best eight saves, including five in the second half. He had a brilliant diving save during a Creighton set piece in the 39th minute and then outdid himself in the 73rd minute with a fingertip save off of a free kick from the left side of the box by Gomez.
"I love the effort the guys showed in the second half," head coach Tim Vom Steeg said. "I thought the fact that we competed and that we got on the board and then from there, we had to get the second goal, and we were chasing a little bit."
While the Gauchos did not get the win, they did become just one of five teams to score against Creighton this season and they snapped the Bluejays' eight-game shutout streak.
This season marks the 11th straight winning season for UCSB and the Gauchos appeared in their 10th consecutive NCAA Tournament. UCSB advanced to the NCAA Third Round for the sixth time in program history.
Sunday's game marked the final in the Gaucho jersey for four seniors: Luis Silva, James Kiffe, Tim Pontius and Gaby Okito.