UCSB Clinches Playoff Berth With Golden Goal Win Over UC Davis

Nick DePuy (photo by Tony Mastres)
Nick DePuy (photo by Tony Mastres)

DAVIS, Calif. – UC Santa Barbara shook off an early goal by UC Davis on Wednesday at Aggie Soccer Field to storm back for a 2-1 overtime win via goals from dependable contributors Kevin Feucht and Nick DePuy, clinching the program's 14th postseason berth in the past 15 seasons and putting them in the driver's seat for a fourth straight Big West North Division title. 

The win kept the Gauchos undefeated in Big West play at 5-0-2, moving seven points clear of second place Sacramento State, who leapfrogged Davis (7-7-2, 3-4-0) in the division standings.

UCSB needs just one win over its final three games to ensure another division crown and a top seed in the Big West Tournament. That victory could come as early as this Saturday against Blue-Green rival Cal Poly in a FOX Sports Prime Ticket-televised showdown at Harder Stadium. Kickoff for that game is scheduled for 8:00 p.m., an hour later than usual.

UC Davis was first on the board in just the seventh minute, with Kyle Higgins redirecting a low cross from Noah Wilson at the near post short side past UCSB goalie Titouan Le Roux

The Gauchos weren't able to create any Grade-A chances in the opening 45, with only crosses from Josue España and Randy Mendoza going down as shots on goal. 

Things changed in the second half for UCSB, with a flurry of chances coming midway through the frame. 

The Gauchos finally broke through at the 77:59 mark, and once again it was Ahinga Selemani taking advantage of shaky defense that led to the score. An España ball down the left wing for Mendoza got the play going, as the latter's long cross wasn't cleared but instead went right to Selemani near the far post.

Just yards away from goal but facing a sharp angle, Selemani instead froze his man with a quick move then chipped the ball across the goalmouth to Feucht, who headed home for his team and Big West-leading 10th goal of the year.

Though the Gauchos couldn't push across a go-ahead score in regulation, their momentum continued into overtime as DePuy was able to fight and create his UCSB-record 16th career game-winning goal. 

Freshman midfielder Lamar Batista was the catalyst for that goal, coming up with a big tackle in the defensive third that knocked the ball loose for teammate Dalton Pando, who sprung a counter. After a couple of touches, Pando shipped a long but low through ball to DePuy, who beat two men to the ball for a partial 1-v-1 with UC Davis keeper Armando Quezada. 

Coming in from the right side, DePuy slid a right-footed shot low to Quezada's left to move UCSB's unbeaten streak to seven games, the longest for the program since 2013. 

Though he was held without a goal for the first time in four games, Selemani was still one of the Gauchos' most dangerous players on Wednesday. He had a great look at an equalizer in the 62nd minute when he dribbled past a defender to get free in the box, but his left-footed shot was high over the bar. Then in the 76th he came within inches of extending his goal streak, hitting the crossbar with a header. 

DePuy also had a Grade-A look earlier in the second half, outmuscling his marker for a header in the 66th minute that went just wide off the post. Quezada came up huge with a close-range sliding stop off a Feucht shot about 10 minutes before his eventual equalizer. 

A big crowd is expected for Saturday's Blue-Green showdown with Cal Poly, so get your tickets today by calling 805-893-UCSB or clicking here