SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Yet another goal from reigning National Player of the Week Nick DePuy held up as the game-winner as No. 15 UC Santa Barbara outlasted defending South Division champion UC Riverside by a score of 2-0 on Thursday night at Harder Stadium, handing Gauchos head coach Tim Vom Steeg the 100th Big West win in his illustrious career.
Electrifying freshman midfielder Geoffrey Acheampong added an insurance goal in the 78th minute to secure the victory.
UCSB improved to 8-3-1 (3-0-0) on the night, while Riverside dropped to 5-6-1 (1-2-1). With the win, Vom Steeg becomes the first coach ever to hit the 100-win milestone in Big West action while extending his record all-time in conference play to 100-28-17.
"It's great to get this win in the books so now we can focus on an important game against Cal State Fullerton on Saturday," said Vom Steeg. "Riverside is a dangerous team, so I'm glad we were able to find that second goal late in the game."
It was the continuation of an almost unbelievable goal scoring streak for DePuy, who has potted eight goals in the past seven games, including five game-winners. The Irvine native now has 20 goals in 25 appearances since converting to forward on Sept. 26, 2014, the most goals by any Division I player in the nation over that time frame.
The 2014 Big West Offensive Player of the Year, who now leads the NCAA in game-winning goals this season with six, has chipped in the deciding goal in three straight contests.
DePuy's marker came in the 70th minute after the Gauchos had applied consistent pressure but were unable to solve keeper Ashkan Khosravi and the Highlanders defense.
Pressing up high, DePuy pounced on a too-soft back pass to a UCR center back, then took off and gained a step on the Highlanders defender down the left side of the box. Nearing the six-yard box, he planted and shot across his body to the far post, his low strike glancing off Khosravi's gloves and into the back of the net.
The Gauchos controlled the run of the play for the rest of the contest after DePuy's opener, resulting in Acheampong's third goal of the season.
Probing for a way towards goal at the edge of the 18-yard box, Acheampong successfully slipped between two defenders with a nice move. Shaking off a tackle, he then juked a man inside the box, took a step to his left and took a shot similar to DePuy's, tucking it inside the far post for the second goal.
The result was a relief for a Gaucho side that had the majority of scoring chances but wasn't able to get on the board until the final quarter of the game. UCSB had the first seven shots of the game, and also had last year's frustrating 1-1 tie at Riverside fresh in its memory.
The Gauchos' first dangerous scoring opportunity came in the 21st minute, when a flurry of activity in front led to a point-black chance for DePuy, who skied his shot over the bar.
Right after the halftime break, a nice one-two play between DePuy and Acheampong led to a great scoring opportunity for the former, but his hard-struck shot was turned away by Khosravi, who made three saves on the night.
Finally, a failed clearance attempt by UCR in the 57th minute led to a chance for sophomore forward Ahinga Selemani, but he couldn't connect in time on the 15-yard attempt despite having an open net to shoot at.
Freshman goalkeeper Justin Vom Steeg was hardly tested on Thursday night, making four saves for his fourth shutout of the year. The most difficult stop he made was in the 59th minute, when UCR's Emilio Huerta created some room on the left side of the box and unleashed a hard shot towards net, but it was right at Vom Steeg, who deflected it away.
With a career overall record of 218-92-37, Tim Vom Steeg is the winningest coach in UCSB and Big West men's soccer history. Head coach of the 2006 national championship squad, he has been named the NSCAA National Coach of the Year twice and the Big West Coach of the Year four times.
The Gauchos, who haven't lost a regular season conference game on their home turf since 2012, are scheduled to take on Cal State Fullerton at Harder Stadium this Saturday night at 7:00 p.m. The Titans haven't earned a "W" in Santa Barbara since 2000.