Dec. 2, 2006
ST. LOUIS, Mo. - When the UC Santa Barbara men's soccer team advanced to the program's first College Cup in 2004, the Gauchos lost the national championship match to Indiana 3-2 in a penalty kick shoot-out. Now, UCSB will have a shot at the title once again after advancing past No. 2 seed Wake Forest in a 4-3 penalty kick decision Saturday afternoon in front of 6,314 at Robert R. Hermann Stadium.
The Gauchos, who have gone on an incredible run over the past seven weeks, advance to face UCLA in the national final Sunday, Dec. 3 at 12:00 p.m. (PST). The Bruins defeated Virginia 4-0 in the first semifinal of the day, led by a pair of goals from forward David Estrada. The championship match will be televised live on ESPN2. UCSB enters Sunday's final with a 16-7-1 overall record.
The Demon Deacons, who had more wins than any other College Cup participant and made their first trip to college soccer's final weekend, saw their season come to a close at 18-3-4.
"I am so excited for the players," head coach Tim Vom Steeg said afterwards. "We didn't play our best and they had every reason to say not tonight. But we slugged it out. We are a completely different team than six weeks ago. For me, it is as rewarding as any game this season, winning tonight, because we just fought through."
After a winter mix of sleet and snow forced the postponement of the College Cup semifinals, the grounds crew at Saint Louis University had the snow cleared and the field in great shape for kickoff of UCSB's match with Wake Forest. Game time temperature was a toasty 34 degrees, which was a welcomed improvement from local conditions on Friday, when the semifinals were originally scheduled.
Once the game was finally underway, WF's Jamie Franks had the first quality look of the match in the seventh minute, when he collected a ball in the box on the right wing, snuck inside a Gaucho defender and shot past senior goalkeeper Kyle Reynish, but the ball went wide right. Franks got by his defender on the right wing again in the 17th minute and crossed for midfielder Ryan Solle, but senior Eric Frimpong recovered to break up the play and stop the Demon Deacon's attack.
Forward Michael Lahoud had the game's first shot on frame, when he got the ball inside UCSB's backline, but Reynish was there for the first of his five saves on the afternoon.
The Gauchos were only able to manage one shot against the stout Wake Forest defense in the first half and it came very early from junior midfielder Tyler Rosenlund. The first 45 minutes saw just six total shots, with only one on frame.
With the temperature dropping in the second half, the Gauchos came out of the locker room aggressive and recorded three corner kicks in the first six minutes, but came up empty. Senior midfielder Bryan Byrne had a good look in the 51st minute, when he got a ball in the box, but Wake Forest keeper Brian Edwards made the save.
The Demon Deacon's first good look at the net in the second half came after forward Marcus Tracy connected with Lahoud just inside the 18-yard box in the 63rd minute, but his shot went wide. Lahoud had another chance minutes later on through ball that split two Santa Barbara defenders, but his offering sailed high.
Perhaps the best scoring opportunity of the game came with less than eight minutes to play in regulation, when defender Evan Brown sent a ball out of the Wake Forest backfield. Tracy out-ran the Gaucho backline and dribbled towards the net, with only the keeper standing between him and the score. Reynish, making one of several excellent plays in the match, rushed the ball and made a sliding stop before Tracy could get a shot off.
But neither team could push through with a goal and the match went into overtime. The Gauchos had a 2-0 record in extra periods this season entering Saturday's contest.
Sophomore midfielder Chris Pontius had the first shot in the overtime period from the right side, but Edwards was on top of the play and made the save. Forward Zach Schilawski got a look with under a minute remaining in the first ten minutes, but his shot was deflected in the box. Tracy put a head on the ball that went wide left just as the clock expired.
UCSB opened the second overtime period with a cross from Frimpong to sophomore forward Nick Perera in the box. Perera had a look at the net, but his header sailed just over the crossbar. Both teams took just one shot in the second extra period before the game went into a penalty kick shoot-out.
"It was a very, very tough game tonight," Vom Steeg said. "It got to a certain point where I actually thought we needed to get this thing into penalty kicks. Kyle Reynish is good at PKs and we are a good PK-taking team. So I felt pretty good getting to that point."
Santa Barbara was the visiting team and shot first. Perera stepped in a knocked the ball through the center of the net as Edwards dove to his left. Steven Curfman took the first shot for the Demon Deacons and put a low shot inside the left post to tie the score at 1-1.
After Frimpong chipped his shot above an out-stretched Edwards for the 2-1 advantage, Will Clayton tied the score again, after not playing a single minute during the game.
Pontius took the third shot for UCSB and got the same result after going the right side of the goal when Edwards guessed the opposite. After Solle missed high on Wake Forest's third shot, Byrne had a chance to put the heavily favored Demon Deacons in a serious hole, but the senior co-captain sailed his penalty kick high as well.
The next to shoot was Sam Cronin, who tied it at 3-3 with a shot low to the left side, past a diving Reynish. Sophomore midfielder Eric Avila, who struggled to get it going in regulation and overtime, took the Gauchos' fifth and final shot and gave Santa Barbara a 4-3 lead, shooting past Edwards in the top right corner.
The Demon Deacons elected Schilawski to take their final shot and when he missed high, the Gauchos stormed the field and celebrated their second trip to the national final in the last three years.
"Losing in a shootout in the national championship always sticks with you," Reynish said. "So having a shootout in the College Cup, when it looked like it was going that way, it was just good to get a second chance. The guys came through and made four of five shots."