SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Junior forward Ahinga Selemani scored early for his third goal in as many matches, but despite dominating the scoring chances while outshooting the opposition 16-5, UC Santa Barbara could not push across another goal and thus had to settle for a 1-1 draw with Sacramento State in Wednesday night's Big West North battle at Harder Stadium.
The tie moved UCSB's record to 7-5-2 on the season while the blue-and-gold remained unbeaten with a 3-0-2 mark in conference play. The Hornets, who scored on their only shot on goal in the game, saw their record go to 6-5-2, 2-2-1.
Similar to last weekend's game against CSUN, the Gauchos came out firing on offense but had early momentum stemmed by a quirky goal from the visitors.
Selemani finished off a deflected through ball from strike partner Nick DePuy to put UCSB up in the sixtth minute, but that lead was relatively short-lived, as Sac State's Alex Bettencourt evened it up in the 27th with his fifth goal of the year.
Earning a free kick on the right side about 20 yards from goal, Bettencourt took an innocuous looking shot on frame. The low drive somehow evaded the four defenders in the wall, and UCSB goalie Titouan Le Roux was screened so didn't see the shot until it was too late.
With the score level, it was the Gauchos who consistently pushed down on the gas pedal, especially in a fast and furious second half. Unfortunately for UCSB, nobody could apply the finishing touch.
Freshman attacker Noah Billingsley had a trio of dangerous scoring opportunities himself in the second stanza. None was more dangerous than his left-footed shot from 25 yards out in the 61st minute which clanged off the crossbar and out. The New Zealand native also had two close-range efforts stopped by Hornets keeper James Del Curto, who was clearly the Man of the Match for the away side.
UCSB seemed to be the only team even attempting to go for goal in overtime, notching three shots to Sacramento's zero, with DePuy getting the two best chances for the Gauchos.
In the first overtime period, DePuy got his foot on a hard cross from senior mid Andy Perez, but there was too much sauce on the pass. Then in the 103rd minute, DePuy out-muscled his marker to get his head on a Dalton Pando cross, but Del Curto was able to get a finger on it and push it just wide of the far post.
The counter-attacking Hornets, who forced a total of zero saves from Le Roux, had few scoring chances throughout the game. Besides their goal, Sac St.'s best look came in the 71st minute when Bettencourt looked to have a brace, but his run was deemed to be offside.
DePuy was the catalyst for UCSB's lone tally, putting in a hard tackle to force a turnover in the Hornets defensive third before advancing on goal. With Billingsley running to his left and Selemani to his right, DePuy tried to lay a through ball down to the former, but the ball was picked off and deflected by a Sac St. center back. Fortunately for UCSB, the carom went right into the path of Selemani who roofed it with his left foot for his fifth goal of the campaign, tying DePuy for second-most on the team.
Next up, the Gauchos travel north on Saturday night to take on Blue-Green rival Cal Poly in a crucial Big West matchup at Spanos Stadium. UCSBGauchos.com will carry a live audio broadcast of that contest, which is scheduled for a 7:00 p.m.
UCSB's next home game will take place next Saturday, Oct. 22, in a Fox Sports-televised showdown with the Mustangs starting at 8:00 p.m. A big crowd is expected, so make sure to get your tickets today by calling 805-893-UCSB or clicking here.