Gauchos Overcome Early Deficit to Land Conference-Opening Victory Over CSUN

Photo by Tony Mastres
Photo by Tony Mastres

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SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Sophomores Nick DePuy and Drew Murphy each recorded multi-point efforts on Thursday night at Harder Stadium to help UC Santa Barbara erase an early one-goal deficit and defeat the visiting Cal State Northridge Matadors 2-1 in the first game of their Big West Conference schedule. 

DePuy scored the second-half game winner while picking up the primary assist on Duncan Backus's equalizer – the first goal of the junior midfielder's career.

Murphy set up both goals and finished the night with a pair of assists. He has now recorded a goal and four assists over the last three games and now sits alone at the top of the conference leaderboard after the night's action with five helpers.

The Gauchos (5-3-1, 1-0-0) have now won a season-best three games in a row. Looking back to last year's undefeated run through the Big West, UCSB has now gone unbeaten in 11 straight conference games. The Matadors fell to 4-5-1 with the loss.

"Anytime you can get a good result against a great team like Northridge, you're happy," said UCSB head coach Tim Vom Steeg. "It was a bit of a tale of two halves, but we're improving on our game management skills and that allowed us to compete in the final 15 minutes of the game when they were trying to find a tying goal."

The Matadors were the first to get on the board on Thursday, finding the net in just the eighth minute. Taking a throw-in just inches away from the end line, CSUN midfielder Gabe Robinson unleashed a 30-yard cannon into the box, finding the head of defender Patrick Hickman, who headed past Gauchos keeper Brandon Berke for his first goal of the season.

UCSB responded just over a dozen minutes later. Taking one of the team's six corner kicks of the first half (compared to CSUN's zero), Murphy found DePuy at the far post. The 6-4 forward then headed back across goal, where Backus was waiting to finish with a headed shot over the keeper to far post, completing the pinball-like play.

The Gauchos continued to outplay the opposition for the remainder of the half, outshooting the Matadors 10-6 for the interval.

With his third goal of the season and second since moving to the center forward spot a week ago, DePuy pushed across the game-winner in the 71st.

Sophomore Ismaila Jome got the play going with a nice play in the midfield to retain possession and restart the UCSB attack. The MAC Hermann Award Watch List member then found freshman midfielder Axel Mendez centrally in the final third, before the latter played a ball down the left wing for a streaking Murphy. The overlapping left back sent a cross to the far post for DePuy, who was able to get a head on it and send it pass CSUN keeper Adam Hobbs.

Having allowed the Matadors to get in a nice groove after the halftime break, the Gauchos began to turn the tide decisively after finding the go-ahead score. Jome came inches away from extending the UCSB lead in the 78th minute when his 20-yard shot rattled beat Hobbs and rattled off the crossbar.

In his third straight start, Berke made a career-best – thus far – four saves in net for the Gauchos to move his personal record to 3-0-0. His counterpart, Hobbs, made a trio of saves for the Matadors and fell to 4-3-1.

For the game, UCSB outshot CSUN 16-10, the fourth time in the past five games that the team has recorded 15 or more shots. Through nine games, the Gauchos have not been outshot yet by an opponent (Stanford tied with 13 apiece).

UCSB wraps up its season-long six-game homestand on Saturday night with No. 3 UC Irvine, who remain unbeaten (8-0-2) after drawing 1-1 with Cal Poly on Thursday night. Tickets for that game are available here