By Mark Patton, Santa Barbara News-Press
Fog crept into UCSB's Harder Stadium last fall during the eerie night that Mathew Glodack was kicked in the head.
The haze didn't lift for another six months.
The gritty defender is finally back in the Gauchos' back, however, and lifting the hopes of UCSB soccer once again.
"Losing him was what kind of sealed our fate last year," coach Tim Vom Steeg said.
Glodack's long road back from a head injury, stalled by bouts of dizziness and motion sickness, have led him to Spokane, Wash., as UCSB's starting left back for this weekend's Nike Soccer Classic.
"I was worried for awhile that I wouldn't get back, because it just kept going on and on," said the junior from Columbus, N.J. "Every month, I was like, 'Augh ... another month!"
He was inadvertently kicked in the head by teammate Fifi Baiden after getting pushed from behind by a UC Riverside player during the first half of their match on Oct. 22.
Vom Steeg, who was serving a suspension from the red card he'd received the previous game, saw the scary event unfold from inside the Harder Stadium press box.
"(Baiden) was in front of him, and was starting to run as Matt got pushed forward," he recalled. "Matt was kind of falling head-first, and (Fifi) kicked up with his heel — like a horse, almost — and caught him as he was coming down."
Glodack began to worry when he couldn't stand up. He grew even more fearful when he began vomiting after being taken into the locker room.
"I got sick right away," he said.
The evening unraveled from there for Vom Steeg. Star defender Peter McGlynn had already been lost for the season with an ankle injury and center back Tim Pontius was serving his own red-card suspension.
"Our defense was already just kind of patched together," the coach recalled. "It got really bizarre that night, between the fog and getting phone calls in the press box that Matt was throwing up on the way to the hospital, and that it wasn't looking good.
"You're thinking about that, and you've got the game going on and wondering, 'Who's playing center back for us?' We didn't have any player resembling that on our bench."
UC Riverside took advantage by rallying for a 3-2 upset victory, derailing UCSB's hopes for a Big West Conference regular-season championship.
"Losing McGlynn was a big hit, but the bigger hit almost was Matt," Vom Steeg said. "Matt could replace McGlynn. ... It's not the same offensively, but he still gives us good defense, he connects things, and he's a good, solid player.
"Now, all of a sudden, we have to go to a freshman redshirt."
Although Glodack suffered no bruising of the brain, the blow to the side of his head severely affected his right inner ear.
"It was like being on a boat for a good week or two, just trying to get my feet back," he said. "My equilibrium in the ear was off.
"I didn't eat much at first. I was still queasy from it."
He tried to begin his soccer comeback just before the NCAA Tournament, but that was a no-go.
"It was like a month later, but it didn't feel good at all," Glodack said. "I felt bobbly — felt like a bobble head. I was really disappointed when it hit me that I wouldn't be able to go back and rejoin the season.
"I finally just told myself that I've got to move on and wait for the next year."
But his darkest days were still to come, when he was unable to start off-season training.
"Some weeks I'd get really mad because I couldn't get out there," he said. "I'd try to work out but it still wouldn't feel good.
"One of my good friends from Florida gave me some books about positive thinking, and that helped."
Holding Glodack back was no easy chore for UCSB's coaching staff.
"I took a couple headers when I wasn't supposed to in the spring," he confessed, "but I figured that one or two wouldn't hurt.
"I was probably a little too excited for the Westmont (exhibition) match and went in for some tackles."
Vom Steeg wasn't surprised at all.
"You can ask anyone on the team: He can have a very mean streak in him," Vom Steeg said. "If he gets upset and is not happy with something, without being loud about it, you will know that he's upset. Somewhere along the line he will finish somebody on the field and you'll say, 'Where did that come out of?'
"Later on, you find out that the guy was jawing with him, or maybe hit him on a pass earlier in the game. Half the time, Matt's not even committing a foul, but he sends his message."
Although Glodack took over McGlynn's position last year, he fits just as well on the left, Vom Steeg said.
"It's remarkable, but he's as good with his left foot as his right," he said. "Very, very few players are like that. He tells this story about how he broke his right ankle one time and just kept playing by using his left."
The defender laughs about using his left so much now, saying, "My right foot is starting to go away."
At least for Glodack, it's always been about finding balance, anyway.