RIVERSIDE, Calif. – Third-ranked UC Santa Barbara opened Big West Conference action in strong fashion on Friday evening as they toppled No. 24 UC Riverside, 3-1, on the road at the UC Riverside Soccer Stadium.
With the win, the Gauchos remain unbeaten with a 7-0-2 record on the year. The Highlanders, who got off to a 7-0 start on the season, dropped their second straight, falling to 7-2-0.
Redshirt freshman Charlie Miller led the way as UCSB avenged a pair of 2011 losses to Riverside. The forward, who made his first career start for the Gauchos, tallied a goal and an assist in the victory.
In the 13th minute, Miller ran down a ball and was able to gain possession on the left side of the box. He played a through ball to freshman Ema Boateng, who scored his third goals of the season from five-yards out, putting UCSB ahead early.
After fending off the UC Riverside offense – which out-shot the Gauchos 9-7 in the first half – for 21 minutes, UCSB finally let one slip by. The equalizing play began with a free kick from Eric Gonzales. As Gaucho goalkeeper Austin Mansker came off his line to punch the ball out, Hayden Leslie was able to connect with a header that found Ruben Valencia on the right side. Valencia got his own head on the ball and sent it into the UCSB goal to tie the game at one-all.
The tie stood until the 70th minute, when the Gauchos once again benefited from Miller's playmaking. This time, Miller played the ball to Nic Ryan, who drove down the left side of the field and scored from 18-yards straight away. The eventual game-winner marked Ryan's third of the year and fourth goal on the season.
Already holding the lead with time dwindling, the Gauchos were given a gift by the Highlanders when Ivan Garcia committed a hard slide tackle against Peter McGlynn, who was mid-counter attack. Garcia was awarded a red card and the Gauchos were able to play the last 10 minutes of the game a man-up.
Less than 20 seconds later, Dion Acoff served a long through ball to Miller, who scored his second goal of the season from inside the six-yard box and pushed the Gauchos' lead to 3-1.
While UCR out-shot the Gauchos, 17-14, UCSB had a 10-5 advantage in shots on-goal. Ryan led the Gauchos with three shots.
In goal, Mansker tied his season-high with four saves in the win. Riverside's Ashkan Khosravi had six saves.
UCSB will continue Big West action on Sunday when it heads to Cal State Fullerton for a 7:30 p.m. match against the Titans. Gerry Fall, the Voice of the Gauchos, will be on hand to call all the action on KZSB 1290 AM. You can also listen online by clicking here.