SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Sophomore midfielder Nick DePuy scored the first goal of his collegiate career and No. 18 UC Santa Barbara controlled the majority of possession in Friday night's home opener, but the team could only muster a 1-1 draw against No. 22 Northwestern in front of 1,605 fans at Harder Stadium.
With 13 shots, the Gauchos (1-1-1) more than doubled up on the Wildcats (2-0-1), who recorded six attempts. UCSB had six shots on frame compared to Northwestern's two.
"It was disappointing that we couldn't get a better result," said UCSB head coach Tim Vom Steeg, "but we created a lot of good chances. And with a young team, we're going to learn how to finish those opportunities."
Through the first 15 minutes of the game, Northwestern had their entire squad in a defensive shell, allowing the Gauchos time on the ball with few challenges. UCSB initially had trouble finding seams in the Wildcats defense, but began to create chances starting with Duncan Backus's 18th minute header.
The Gauchos came within inches of scoring in the 25th minute, as freshman forward Ludwig Ahl – making his Harder Stadium debut – sprung a counter and found senior forward Reed McKenna in the box after making a lengthy run through the midfield. Ahl's pass put McKenna in a good position to score, but his left-footed shot rolled just wide of the open net.
Just minutes later, UCSB was truly able to find the back of the net. Operating on the right wing, McKenna sent in a left-footed cross to the box that was repelled by the Northwestern defense. However, the clearance attempt came right to DePuy at the top of the penalty box. With his defender closing quickly, DePuy faked to his right before taking a touch to his left and curling a shot into the corner low to the keeper's right.
A well-struck but easily saved 25-yard try from Drew Murphy – who played at left back for the majority of Friday's contest – as time expired closed the first half.
After a more even start to the second half, Northwestern was able to land an equalizer in the 65th minute. Forward Elo Ozumba got the play started with a cross from the right wing. His service went past the far post and almost crossed the end line, but Mike Roberge was able to flick back towards the box, where Jeffrey Hopson settled and beat UCSB keeper Josh McNeely with a near-post finish.
Sophomore midfielder Ismaila Jome had a golden opportunity to put the Gauchos back on top in the 70th minute after being played into a one-vs-one situation by Ahl, but Northwestern keeper Tyler Miller got his leg on the shot to make one of his five saves.
Ahl himself had a chance to recapture the lead in the 88th minute after getting deep into the box following a nice run of play, but the forward elected to try a pass to Charlie Miller instead of shooting, and the Northwestern defense was able to clear the cross over the bar.
The Gauchos had the better run of play in the overtime periods as well, but neither team created an overly dangerous chance. Midfielder Axel Mendez – another freshman midfielder who impressed with his ball-handling and pace in his home debut – had a drive blocked in the 100th minute, the only shot recorded by either team in the extra periods.
UCSB will return to action on Tuesday night at 7:00 p.m. as they travel to Palo Alto to take on Stanford in a game nationally televised by the Pac-12 Network.
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