Nov. 28, 2007
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Jon Curry scored in the 10th minute and that was all 7th-ranked UC Santa Barbara needed to defeat visiting Washington 1-0 in an NCAA Tournament Second Round match Wednesday night in front of 9,641 fans at Harder Stadium.
With the win, the 12th-seeded Gauchos improved to 13-3-4 overall this season and advance to the Sweet 16, where fifth-seeded Ohio State awaits after defeating Louisville 1-0 earlier in the day. UCSB will travel to Columbus to face the Big Ten Champions on Sunday afternoon. Kickoff is slated for 1:00 p.m.
The defending national champions have now won seven consecutive NCAA Tournament games dating back to last season and have won seven of their last eight overall in 2007.
The Huskies season came to a close with a final overall record 9-8-4.
It didn't take long for UCSB to get on the board, scoring the matches' only goal on the Gauchos' first shot just 9:58 in. After a Ciaran O'Brien corner kick from the left side was cleared out, it landed right at Curry's feet just outside the box on the same side. All alone with the ball, the sophomore midfielder sent a curling shot up over Huskie goalkeeper Stephen Fung's head and into the top right corner for what proved to be the game-winner with over 80 minutes still to play.
It was Curry's second goal of the season and first since he scored Santa Barbara's third goal in a 4-0 win at UC Davis September 29.
"I was surprised to have the time I did to get a shot off like that," Curry said. "But I knew I placed it well and, unless their keeper made a really great save, I felt like it was going in. Fortunately for us, it did."
Washington had a couple quality chances to equalize in the first half, but freshman goalkeeper Bryant Rueckner rose to the occasion in his first-career NCAA Tournament match. Freshman forward Ellis McLoughlin got in front of the Gaucho defense in the 14th minute, but Rueckner was there to make the save on his header.
The Huskies had perhaps their best opportunity of the night in the 39th minute after senior defender Andy Iro was whistled for a yellow card just outside the box. Junior midfielder Raphael Cox lined up for the free kick and fired one towards the far post, but Ruecker read it all the way and made the diving stop.
Both teams recorded six shots in the first half, but it was the Gauchos that had the lead at the break.
Trailing 1-0, Washington was the more aggressive side after intermission and controlled possession for much of the second half. The Gaucho backline came to Rueckner's aid, clearing balls out of the box when Huskie forward Ely Allen got a shot off on a corner kick and then denying McLoughlin on a nice give-and-go play. Rueckner then erased a floating shot from Cox from about 25 yards out and UCSB held on for the narrow victory.
"Our offensive has gotten most of the headlines all season, but tonight it was the defense that really stepped up and got it done," head coach Tim Vom Steeg said. "I thought we put together a defensive plan that was effective against a very, very good Washington team and that's what it takes to win a close one like this in the postseason."
Despite getting outshot 13-7, the Gauchos will move on after recording their sixth shutout of the season. Rueckner finished with six saves, which ties his career-high.
Fung did not record a save for the Huskies in the defeat.
Offensively, Curry and junior midfielder Eric Avila led the team with two shots, while O'Brien, Tino Nuñez, and Alfonso Motagalvan had one apiece. Curry's goal was UCSB's only shot on frame in the match.
After the final total of 9,641 came down, Wednesday's attendance was the highest for a single game anywhere in the nation this season. In fact, Harder Stadium has now been the site of the top two men's soccer crowds this season, with the other coming after 8,102 turned out for Santa Barbara's 3-1 win over Central Coast rival Cal Poly November 3.
"The crowd has been amazing all season and it definitely was a factor for us tonight," Iro said. "Anytime you see that many people coming out, it gives you that extra push, that 12th man on the field."