Nov. 15, 2006
DALLAS, Tex. - The 17th-Ranked UC Santa Barbara men's soccer team won its biggest game of the season, defeating No. 3 seed Southern Methodist University 3-1 in a NCAA Tournament Second Round match-up Wednesday night at Westcott Field. With the win, the Gauchos advance to the Sweet 16 and will play at unseeded Old Dominion Saturday night.
With the victory, UCSB improves to 14-7 overall this season. No. 1-ranked SMU finishes the season at 17-2-4. Wednesday night's loss was only the second this season for the Mustangs, who have been at or near the top of the national rankings all season. It was their first defeat at home.
The Gauchos, who have struggled on the road all season, put that behind them in early against the Mustangs. UCSB scored three times on a team that had not allowed more than one goal in match this season and a total of just 11 in 2006. Sophomore forward Nick Perera got the scoring going, freshman midfielder David Walker netted the game-winner, and sophomore midfielder Eric Avila added the final touch.
"We liked the match-up with SMU from the start," head coach Tim Vom Steeg said. "Our team has played in some really big games and, even though they've got a great tradition here and had an amazing season, we had the guys ready to play and believing they could beat this team. The guys played excellent tonight."
The Mustang's Adrian Chevanannes had the game's initial look at the goal, taking the first shot at the 37:18 mark, but senior goalkeeper Kyle Reynish was there for the save. SMU looked to take an early lead less than two minutes later when Bruno Guarda netted a cross from Dario Saintus, but Guarda was called offsides on the play.
From there, UCSB dominated the opening period, keeping the ball in the SMU backfield for the duration of the first half. Avila took the Gauchos' first shot of the evening, firing high from about 22 yards out in the 21st minute. Fellow midfielder Tyler Rosenlund sent a ball towards the net in the box seconds later, but keeper Matt Wideman was on top of the play making the first of his seven saves on the night. Avila had yet another great look from the top right corner of the box at the 30:03 mark, but his shot sailed wide left.
Santa Barbara took a 1-0 lead in the 32nd minute when Avila dribbled around two defenders shielding the ball, before finding a streaking Perera in the box to his left. Perera collected the ball in full stride and slipped just past Wideman's grasp to the inside post. The score was the fifth of the year for the native of Madrid, Spain.
The Mustangs responded with the equalizer at the 40:22 mark. Chase Wileman charged up from his midfield position on a throw in. He carried the ball towards the net on the left wing and sent a sailing cross through the box for Scott Corbin, who leaped up and placed it in to the far left post.
The Gauchos were un-phased by SMU's score, however, and recaptured the lead less than three minutes later. Following a Bryan Byrne corner kick, the ball bounced around in the box for several moments before junior defender Andy Iro rose above the crowd to get a head on the ball. His shot ricocheted off the cross bar and bounced out to David Walker, who put in his first collegiate goal from just beyond the goal line for the 2-1 lead.
UCSB out-shot SMU 7-3 in the first half. The Mustangs had out-scored their opponents 27-4 in the opening period this season entering Wednesday's match.
Santa Barbara had an excellent opportunity to take a 3-1 lead 12 minutes into the second period when Byrne intercepted a pass in the SMU backfield, dribbled up field and left it off for Perera. Perera stopped to measure up the shot, but Wideman, timing it perfectly, raced out to block the ball before Perera could get it off. The ball landed at Perera's feet once again, but the Mustang defense recovered to clear it out of the box.
The Gauchos finally put the game out of reach at 75:40 when Byrne dribbled down the left wing in front of the SMU defense. Wideman came out of the box on the play, but Byrne was able to cross it to Avila in the box, who chipped it in with an open net for the final 3-1 advantage. The goal was Avila's team-leading sixth of the season.
For the game, Santa Barbara out-shot Southern Methodist 16-8. Perera led the Gauchos with six shots, five of which were on frame. Guarda and midfielder Jeff Harwell led the way for the Mustangs with two apiece.
Reynish was tremendous between the posts once again and only needed three saves to lead UCSB to its seventh victory in the last eight matches.
For the second straight game, the Gauchos were without senior defender Jeff Murphy, who was sidelined due to a leg injury, but UCSB's depth proved to make up for the loss. Junior Brennan Tennelle started in his place, joining Andy Iro and Greg Curry on a backline that didn't miss a beat, limiting the nation's second-ranked offense to just
UCSB advances to the round of 16 where unseeded Old Dominion (15-5-3) awaits after defeating No. 14 seed North Carolina 1-0 Wednesday night. The Gauchos will travel to Norfolk, Va. to face off with the Monarchs Saturday night at 7:00 p.m. EST (4:00 p.m. PST).