November 24, 2013

UCSB Dispatched by Penn State in Second Round of NCAA Tournament

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – In its first match of the 2013 NCAA Tournament, the UCSB men's soccer team was unable to hold off No. 16 Penn State after being dealt a red card in just the sixth minute of the match, ultimately falling to the Nittany Warriors by a score of 1-0 following a second half Connor Maloney strike.

The loss eliminated the Gauchos from the NCAA Tourney, ending their hope of a second national title. Their 11th trip to the postseason in the last 12 years, it was just the second time in program history that UCSB dropped its tourney opening game.

UCSB ends the season with a record of 12-6-3. Penn State improved to 13-5-2 and will move on to face New Mexico in the Sweet Sixteen round of the tournament.

In the loss, the Gauchos back four of primarily Duncan Backus, Daniel Welsh, Nick DePuy, and Adam Carn-Saferstein, did an excellent job of limiting the Nittany Lions offense, as they were only able to put three shots on frame for the entire match, equaling the fewest shots on goal by an opponent this season. In fact, the Penn State goal came on arguably the team's only Grade-A scoring opportunity.

"I thought we played very well tonight, considering the circumstances," said UCSB head coach Tim Vom Steeg. "We laid it all out on the line tonight, especially our seniors. Of all the teams I've had over the years here, I'm as proud of this team as I am any of the others with the resiliency and character that they have shown this season."

The Gauchos were dealt a critical blow in the match just minutes in, as senior midfielder Fifi Baiden was shown a straight red in the sixth minute for a tackle on Maloney. An already shorthanded Gauchos side was forced to soldier on with 10 players for the remainder of the game.

Despite the disadvantage, UCSB maintained the majority of possession in the first half. All their time on the ball amounted to just three shots, however, as chances for both teams were few and far between in a physical half that saw 20 fouls committed.

Sensing their upper hand, the Gauchos started three forwards (Achille Campion, Charlie Miller, and Goffin Boyoko) alongside winger Ismalia Jome to start the second half. The gambit resulted in a few dangerous chances off corner kicks, but UCSB was unable to push a goal across as Penn State took up more of an attacking mindset in the latter half.

Penn State showed signs of a breakthrough in the 66th minute, as they fired three shots at UCSB keeper Josh McNeely in rapid succession, but the Gauchos defense did a great job of neutralizing the first two shots before Drew Klingenberg sent an ambitious attempt at goal wide of the net.

The Nittany Lions netted the only goal of the match in the 78th minute. Holding the ball up in the penalty box, forward Jordan Tyler played a ball back to to the right side of the box to Maloney, who took the pass in stride before planting and firing back across his body and finding the corner of the goal.

Limited by a hamstring injury that has kept him out for the past three weeks, Campion still managed to have an impressive game, ending the night with a shot on goal and displaying some impressive hold-up play. McNeely was rarely tested, but managed to make a pair of saves on the evening.