Sept. 16, 2007
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - Diego Barrera's header found the left side of the net to deliver the 28th-ranked University of New Mexico a 2-1 victory over No. 9 UC Santa Barbara in the final game of the Nike/Crescent Financial Solutions Invitational Sunday afternoon at the UNM Soccer Complex. Chris Pontius scored in the 29th minute as the Gauchos erased an early deficit, but it would not be enough.
After a 2-1 overtime win over No. 3 SMU Friday, UCSB hoped to keep the momentum going Sunday against the host Lobos, but it was not meant to be and the defending champions' record fell to 2-2-1 with the loss. New Mexico bounced back from a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Washington in its tournament opener and improved to 3-3-0 overall.
The Lobos took an early 1-0 lead when forward Chris Wright found the net just 8:39 into the match. Midfielder Stephen Brown crossed into the box from the left side, where Brown collected it and slid the ball past UCSB freshman goalkeeper Bryant Rueckner inside the near post with his outside foot.
Santa Barbara answered with the equalizer 20 minutes later. Sophomore midfielder Jon Curry, who has played tremendously for the Gauchos on defense this season, chipped in on the offensive end when he sent a cross towards the middle of the box from the left side. Pontius, who is excellent at winning balls in the air, rose above a Lobo defender and placed a header past a diving Mike Graczyk in the left side of the net at the 28:21 mark.
Pontius and fellow midfielder Ciaran O'Brien lead the team with two goals apiece through five games this season. It was Curry's first assist of the year.
The scored remained deadlocked at 1-1 heading into the locker room at halftime. Both teams recorded seven shots and one corner kick apiece in a very evenly matched opening period.
After missed opportunities for both sides in the second half, the Gauchos' struggles down the stretch continued, as UCSB surrendered the game-winner with overtime less than nine minutes away. UNM midfielder Joey Vitagliano pushed up the right side and sent a sailing cross through the box and beyond the net. Barrera somehow slipped past the Santa Barbara backline and, with Rueckner out of position on the play, headed the ball into the left side for the decisive score and the 2-1 final margin at the 81:49 mark.
The Gauchos have now allowed a goal in the final 10 minutes of regulation in four of their five games in 2007. After a goal in the 81st minute tied the game at two at Stanford August 31, Gonzaga broke through with the game's only goal at the 81:35 mark to steal a win two days later. Santa Barbara was nearly eight minutes away from a shutout victory over SMU on Friday, but Dane Saintus' score forced overtime before UCSB eventually prevailed 2-1.
The Gauchos were out-shot for just the second time this season, as the Lobos held a narrow 15-7 edge in that category. Five of UCSB's shots were on frame, while UNM registered six shots on goal. Rueckner made four saves in a losing effort, while Graczyk also finished with four for New Mexico.
Eric Avila and O'Brien were named to the Nike/Crescent Financial Solutions All-Tournament Team.
UCSB returns home to Harder Stadium to take on former assistant coach Leo Chappel and Columbia Friday, September 21 at 7:00 p.m.