SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Senior forward Nick DePuy landed a goal in the 77th minute to lead No. 9 UC Santa Barbara over St. Mary's in Sunday's non-conference battle at Harder Stadium.
The second game in three days for UCSB and the second in four for St. Mary's, both teams failed to create much offense until DePuy's spark, the lone goal in the contest. Extending the team's hot start, the Gauchos are now 4-0-0 on the young season, while UCSB is now 18-0-4 all-time when DePuy finds the back of the net.
The visiting Gaels dropped to 0-2-2 on the year.
After scoring a pair of goals in Friday's 5-2 win over San Diego, junior midfielder Kevin Feucht was the catalyst for UCSB's goal on Sunday, finding DePuy with a pass into the box from right side about 25 yards from goal.
The left-footed DePuy surprised his markers with an excellent turn to his right off the pass, beating the Gaels to the ball and burying a right-footed shot past SMC keeper Andrew Konstantino. It was the second goal of the year for DePuy, who led all players NCAA-wide in 2015 with 15 regular season goals.
Needing just that one goal to pull out the result, UCSB's defense did a good job stifling the Gaels attack despite opening the game with the debut of a new three-defender formation.
St. Mary's ended up mustering just four shots on the night, and only one caused a real danger to the Gauchos.
In the 62nd minute, SMC's Rafael Sanchez found himself with room on the right side before uncorking a shot from just outside the top of the 18. A well-positioned Titouan Le Roux dove to his left and pushed the shot wide to preserve the tie. UCSB's freshman keeper made three saves on the night.
"This game was played entirely in the midfield, it was very difficult to break them down," said UCSB head coach Tim Vom Steeg. "In a game like that you need to win the game in the box and you need to have your leading goalscorer find a shot and win the game for you, and fortunately that's what happened tonight."
Besides his game-winning shot, DePuy had a pair of headers that just missed the net, one that went over the bar in the 19th minute and another that rolled just wide of the post in the 85th.
After being held without a goal in the first two games of the year, DePuy now has scores in two straight games. Feucht has seven points, three goals and an assist, over the last three games.
With four wins out of their first four games, the Gauchos are off to their first 4-0 start since the 2011 season.
Next up, UCSB will return to the state of Ohio for a pair of games, first against Butler on Friday at 1:30 p.m. and then against Akron at 4:30 p.m. on Monday.