SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – UC Santa Barbara sophomore forward Nick DePuy drilled a 35-yard goal with under a minute remaining in regulation to break a scoreless tie and claim a 1-0 win over No. 3 UC Irvine in front of 4,731 fans at Harder Stadium on Saturday night.
It was the first loss for the Anteaters (8-1-2, 0-1-1) this season. The Gauchos (6-3-1, 2-0-0) wrap up their season-long six-game homestand with a 5-1-0 record and end the first week of Big West conference play on a four-game win streak. The squad is also unbeaten in 12 straight conference contests dating back to last season.
The third-ranked Anteaters are tied for the highest ranked opponent to be defeated by the Gauchos in regular season program history.
DePuy's 90th minute goal came seemingly out of nowhere in a game that appeared to be destined for overtime. The action got started when freshman defender Jeff Quezada played a long ball over the top to senior Reed McKenna, who had gotten behind the UCI defense.
McKenna tried to run down the ball, but was barely beaten to it by 'Eaters keeper Michael Breslin, however the pressure from the UCSB forward caused a hasty release. The clearance eventually came to DePuy about 40 yards from goal. After settling the ball, the Irvine, Calif. native took one touch to his left, saw the keeper a little too far out of position, then drilled a 35-yard bender around Breslin and into the upper left corner of the net.
"As soon as I hit it, I knew it was going to be a goal," said DePuy. "I saw the keeper off his line and decided to take a shot at it. It turned out to be a pretty good move."
"It was obviously a great shot by Nick," said UCSB head coach Tim Vom Steeg. "I can't think of a better way to finish the first week of conference. We've been playing generally pretty well so far this season, but now it's about getting results, and we've been successful in that area recently."
DePuy's score was the culmination of a second half that saw the Gauchos play considerably better than in the first, when they had just one shot and none from open play. UCSB began to turn it around after the halftime break, resulting in seven shots and five corners.
The game was a continuation of heartbreak for the 'Eaters against UCSB, as the Gauchos have scored last-minute or golden goals in the past three regular season contests between the two teams. Current senior Kevin Garcia-Lopez landed a double-overtime golden goal in 2013 while 2012 Big West Midfielder of the Year Nic Ryan downed the Anteaters with a brace – including a golden goal with 24 seconds left in double OT – the year prior.
Despite the late deadlock, both teams had chances to get on the board earlier in the second half.
In the 75th minute, McKenna sent Harder Stadium into a frenzy when he perfectly curled a shot around the keeper's left hand side and just inside the right post, but a late whistle revealed that he had been deemed offside by assistant referee Luis Gutierrez.
In the 69th minute, UCI forward Dennis Martinez was played into a 1-v-1 situation with UCSB keeper Brandon Berke inside the 18-yard box. All alone, Martinez got enough power on his shot but left a lot to desire on his location, as a well-positioned Berke didn't have to move as he got an arm on the drive for the save of the game.
Besting his career-high of four saves set on Thursday against CSUN, Berke made five against the Anteaters to capture his second shutout of the season. He has now won all four games since making his first career start against San Diego State last week.
The Gauchos will hit the road for the first time in nearly a month next week as they continue their Big West campaign with matches at Cal State Fullerton on Thursday night and UC Riverside on Saturday night. Both games will be broadcasted on AM 1290, Santa Barbara News-Press radio, with the Voice of the Gauchos Gerry Fall on play-by-play duty.