SANTA BARBARA, Calif. -- A disciplined, physical defensive effort from No. 6 Akron silenced the UC Santa Barbara offense on Friday night as the No. 25 Gauchos fell by a score of 2-0 in the team's first game since school opened on Thursday.
A season-high 7,283 fans were on hand for the contest against the Zips (5-2-1), who were returning to Harder after having won their first ever National Championship in Soccer Heaven when UCSB hosted the College Cup in 2010.
The Gauchos (4-3-1) mustered just six shots on the night, the first time the Big West's leading shot-takers failed to crack double digits this season. The Zips bottled up the UCSB offense all night, forcing the Gauchos into playing long balls over the top to Nick DePuy, resulting in a season-high eight offsides violations.
"It was certainly a disappointing result," said UCSB head coach Tim Vom Steeg. "We had high expectations coming into the game and we didn't play well. It could have been a different game if we score on our opportunities in the first 5-10 minutes of the game, but we weren't able to connect a pass and get our offense going."
Freshman goalkeeper Justin Vom Steeg was a standout for UCSB on Friday, making a number of critical plays en route to a career-high seven save night.
Key stops included a diving save of a 57th Nate Schultz curler from 20 yards out and a composed block of a Richie Laryea near-post shot in the 37th.
Though Akron applied consistent offensive pressure, especially in the second half, both of their goals came on interceptions of UCSB passes deep in the Gaucho defensive third.
In the 35th minute, Sam Grainford picked off an errant Gaucho back pass and advanced unobstructed to the UCSB goal. In a 1 v 1 situation, Vom Steeg actually made a nice sliding stop on Grainford's first effort, but the Akron forward collected the rebound and finished into an open net.
Then in the 87th, Akron's Stuart Holthusen reeled in a deflected UCSB clearing attempt, dribbled toward the goal line and beat Vom Steeg from a tough angle, his shot going just inside the far post.
Sophomore forward Ahinga Selemani was the most persistent threat for UCSB, taking a team-high three shots and buzzing around the offensive third pressing Akron defenders. He was the only Gaucho to put a shot on frame.
UCSB finishes up non-conference play on Sunday evening when it hosts the University of San Diego at 6:00 p.m. The Gauchos open Big West action next week on the road at UC Irvine and Cal State Northridge.