No. 13 Gauchos Hold Off Oakland For 2-1 Win in Regular Season Opener

Josue España scored in the 76th minute to secure a 2-1 opening day win for UCSB (photo by Eric Isaacs)
Josue España scored in the 76th minute to secure a 2-1 opening day win for UCSB (photo by Eric Isaacs)

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Just six days after scoring a pair of goals against Westmont, senior midfielder Josue España found the back of the net again in Friday's regular season opener against Oakland, helping secure a 2-1 victory for No. 13 UC Santa Barbara in the first game of the Wolstein Classic hosted by Ohio State.

In a dominant first half for UCSB, freshman midfielder Daniel Amo scored in the fifth minute while the Gauchos would go on to outshoot Oakland 9-3 before the break. They would have had a larger lead heading into the locker room, but two shots banged off the goal post and Golden Grizzlies keeper Zach Walker came up with a pair of big saves.

Oakland's Austin Ricci leveled the scoreline early in the second half, and UCSB struggled to create offense after that until España's breakthrough in the 76th minute. 

The victory for the Gauchos was their sixth straight on opening day. UCSB now have just one opening day loss over the last 11 years. 

UCSB All-American striker Nick DePuy helped create the opening goal from Amo, starting the play by holding up before finding junior midfielder Kevin Feucht coming up the field. Feucht was able to lay a pass down the right side for freshman defender Mateo Restrepo Mejia, and the Tortonto FC Academy product drilled a perfect cross into the box. Amo was able to tap it in to put the Gauchos up by one. 

That was one of multiple chances for UCSB in the first half, which had shots from Ahinga Selemani and Dalton Pando glance off the post. DePuy and Feucht each had a good look at goal that was snuffed out by Walker. 

Oakland's top goalscorer a season ago but not fully healthy on Friday, Ricci didn't start the match but he made his presence felt just after play resumed following halftime, turning a turnover in the midfield into a goal after blasting a shot from the left edge of the 18 past UCSB keeper Titouan Le Roux

With the score tied, UCSB wasn't able to reproduce its first half offensive prowess, mustering just two shots over the first 30 minutes of the frame. 

But that all changed in the 76th when Dalton Pando started a play from the right side, putting a ball into the box that rattled around until España was able to get a foot on it. His first drive at net was blocked, but he calmly collected his own rebound and put it away just below the bar to make the Gauchos winners. 

The Gauchos put the clamps down after going ahead, not allowing Oakland to record another shot until the dying seconds of the contest.

In his official collegiate debut, Le Roux made three stops including a highlight reel stop of a Alex Serwatka shot in the first half which kept the score at 1-0. 

UCSB will return to action on Sunday afternoon at 4:00 p.m. PT, taking on host Ohio State in the final game of the Wolstein Classic. UCSBGauchos.com will carry a live audio broadcast of that game. This will be the Gauchos' first matchup against the Buckeyes since the 2007 Sweet Sixteen.