SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – For the second time this weekend, UC Santa Barbara erased a first half deficit to claim to an overtime victory, riding the first career goals for Reed McKenna and Kevin Garcia-Lopez to a 2-1 win at UC Irvine's Anteater Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Extending their season-best winning streak to five games, the Gauchos improved their record to 9-4 (North Division-best 4-0 record in Big West play), while UCI fell to 7-4-2, 2-2.
With wins in their first four Big West games, UCSB is off to its best start in conference play since 2009, when the team went 4-0 out of the gate en route to an eventual 8-1-1 conference record.
It is just the second time since 2005 that the Gauchos have recorded back-to-back overtime wins (Oct. 5-8, 2011 was the other occurence).
Though spotting No. 4 CSUN a goal within the first ten minutes on Friday night was not the best start to a match, UCSB faced perhaps an even tougher uphill climb against the Anteaters on Sunday. UCI struck first with a 31st minute goal, and then the Gauchos went a man down after sophomore Marshall Cazares received a red card in the 53rd minute.
Undeterred, UCSB refocused its offensive efforts and created a number of chances despite the disadvantage. For the whole second half, the Gauchos recorded six shots after being held to zero with a full 11 players in the first half. Junior forward Reed McKenna broke through for the Gauchos with his first collegiate goal in the 62nd minute.
Receiving a feed from freshman midfielder Drew Murphy, McKenna fired a first touch shot just inside the left post to even the score at 1-1.
Murphy took over the team lead in assists with his sixth helper of the season.
Just 11 minutes later, UC Irvine was whistled for a foul in the 18-yard box, giving the Gauchos their second penalty kick of the weekend. However, Reed McKenna's spot kick to the left of UCI keeper Michel Breslin was stopped as the teams headed to overtime with the score still knotted.
After an uneventful first overtime period that saw just two shots from both teams combined, Garcia-Lopez saved the Gauchos from their first tie of the season in the 109th minute. Making a run down the right wing, Garcia-Lopez advanced on and was able to beat the keeper with a shot inside the near post.
It was the first career goal for Garcia-Lopez as well.
Reigning Big West Defensive Player of the Week Josh McNeely continued his strong run of play, making four saves on the way to his eighth win of the season.
UC Irvine's Enrique Cardenas created the game's first goal by running down the left flank and juking before feeding Lester Hayes III, who finished for the score.
The Gauchos will play just one match next week, as they travel to UC Davis to take on the Aggies on Saturday afternoon. Live coverage of that match, including live video and audio broadcasts, can be found here.