UCSB Defeats LMU 1-0 in Final Preseason Tuneup

Noah Billingsley scored a free kick in the 21st minute to give the Gauchos their second win of the preseason. (Photo by Eric Isaacs)
Noah Billingsley scored a free kick in the 21st minute to give the Gauchos their second win of the preseason. (Photo by Eric Isaacs)

LOS ANGELES, Calif. – Senior wingback Noah Billingsley's spectacular free kick in the 21st minute gave the UC Santa Barbara men's soccer team their second preseason win in as many games, defeating the LMU Lions 1-0 at Sullivan Field on Saturday night.

The starting eleven from the Westmont match a week prior was unchanged, with the exceptions of transfers Will Baynham and Ameyawu Muntari, who made their debuts.

The first ten minutes of the game were riddled by fouls on both teams as each side was attempting to figure the other out in the early going.

The Gauchos earned their first corner kick of the evening in the 12th minute after an attempted cross caromed off the leg of an LMU defender past the endline.

Junior centerback Hunter Ashworth got his head on the end of a header that looked like it had LMU goalkeeper Alfredo Cortez beat and was on its way to putting the Gauchos on the board, but it was cleared off the goal line by centerback Nick Dauchot.

Just over a minute after that, junior right winger Rodney Michael had a big chance of his own, attempting a low driven shot that just slipped past the far post.

UCSB's next opportunity would come when LMU's CJ Neville fouled Muntari just outside the box in the 20th minute, setting up a free kick from around 20 yards out.

Up stepped senior attacking midfielder Thibault Candia to take the shot, but he then pulled back to make way for Noah Billingsley to strike it with the side of his foot and dip over the four-man LMU wall and into Cortez's net.

On what led up to it and the free kick itself, head coach Tim Vom Steeg said, "The team took the opportunity to get Muntari around the 18-yard box, where he's dangerous and dynamic. He created that free kick. When it came to taking it, no one has taken more free kick practice than Noah. It's a remarkable shot if you can pull it off, with a lot that can go wrong if you can't, and he hits it every day at practice."

LMU had a chance to tie the game up in the 40th minute, when Alex Liu put a shot on target that was parried by sophomore goalkeeper Ben Roach into the path of Billingsley on the UCSB goal line, who hoofed it back towards midfield.

The Gauchos had a pair of high-quality looks in the second half, the first of which came in the 67th minute when Michael had a left-footed effort saved by LMU goalkeeper Jacob Jackson.

Later in the match, sophomore striker Carter Clemmensen got on the end of a long ball from the Gaucho backline, which he brought down with his right foot and took two touches to the right inside the penalty area, dragging out goalkeeper Mitchell Wilson from the LMU goal. He aimed his shot for the far post and had it cleared off the line, but he earned a corner when the ball got back to him from the Gaucho midfield and his second shot went off the leg of a defender in front of him.

"Overall, the fact that we played a game against a Division I school on the road and came away with a win was a positive for us. There were certain moments when it looked like things were coming together, but at the same time we have a number of things to fix within a very short period of time," said Vom Steeg on the win.

"We know we have talented players up the field, we know we have added some pieces that should make us a more dangerous team offensively, but we're not sure that's come out in the first two games since we've only scored two goals, neither from open play. It's not surprising we got two shutouts in two games. We returned our defense and [freshman] Lucas [Gonzalez] is playing well at left back- he can be our day in, day out option there. But offensively, we're still not dangerous enough."

Season tickets for the 2019 UCSB men's soccer season, with a parking pass included, are now available. Click here for more information or call the UCSB Athletics Ticket Office at 805-893-UCSB.

The Gauchos open the regular season on Friday, Aug. 30 against UNLV, following the conclusion of the women's soccer match versus Cal. The men's match is scheduled to kick off at 7:30 p.m.