Oct. 29, 2005
Santa Barbara, Calif. - Senior Ivan Becerra and freshman Eric Avila hook up yet again to lead the 17th-ranked UC Santa Barbara men's soccer team to a 2-0 Big West Conference victory over Cal State Fullerton. Becerra netted his fifth game-winner of the season and the Gaucho defense held strong to post its seventh shutout of the season and improve to 10-3-3 on the season and an unbeaten 5-0-2 in conference play.
The first half went scoreless thanks to some stellar saves in both nets. UCSB goalkeeper Kyle Reynish was once again strong between the pipes, making two saves in the first period and four more in the second. CSF's Bobby Armstrong, however, showed he was up to the challenge, keeping the Titans in the match early with a pair of point blank saves in the first 15 minutes on shots by Becerra and junior midfielder Eric Frimpong.
Santa Barbara did not waste anytime in the second half after going scoreless in the first, netting what proved to be the game winner less than three minutes in. Avila picked up a pass in the center circle and turned to face the Titan defense, after one more quick touch he slipped a perfectly place through back behind the Fullerton back line and into the path of Becerra on the right flank. Becerra pushed the ball forward past his defender before carrying back across his body and onto his left foot. And then from about 25 yards outs he cracked a low-liner towards the back post. Armstrong managed to get a finger on the shot, but it was hit to hard as it found its way into the side-netting for his the 1-0 lead and his team-leading 10th goal of the season. The assist was Avila's fifth of the season, giving him sole possession of the team lead.
The Titans best chance to even things up came in the 60th minute. Following a clearance out of the back, they had a three-on-three going forward with junior midfielder Jeff Murphy retreating and trying to catch up to the attack. But as the ball neared the UCSB penalty box, Reynish came charging hard off of his line, sliding into the path of Murphy's man and taking away his shot, just inside the top left corner of the box. Reynish was two-for-two in breakaway opportunities on the night in posting his seventh shutout of the season, tying him for eighth all-time on the Gauchos' single season list.
Santa Barbara added an insurance goal late in the match on another senior-freshman connection, except this time it was the veteran feeding the newbie. With a throw-in along the right side line deep in their attacking third, Murphy threw the ball to the feet of senior defender Pat Scott who was about 35 yards out from the touchline. After controlling the throw-in, Scott made one small touch forward before launching a long, looping cross into the back post, over the Fullerton defense. Freshman midfielder Chris Pontius rose high above his defender to meet the cross with his head and redirected it into the upper corner and past Armstrong for his third goal of the season, giving the match its 2-0 outcome.
Next up for the Gauchos, they enter the final week of the regular season with the Big West Conference Title on the line. The defending champions, having won three out of the last four, face the only other team to win the title in the last four seasons when they travel to take on Cal State Northridge next Wednesday, November 2nd at 2:00 p.m. Currently holding a two point advantage (19 points) over Santa Barbara (17 points), Wednesday's match could very well decided who will be taking home the trophy this season. Both teams have will each have one remaining conference match following Wednesday's showdown. UCSB and CSUN tied 2-2 earlier this season in Santa Barbara.