SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – UC Santa Barbara's offense put it all together Thursday night in the team's Big West Conference opener, dropping a season-high five goals, including four in the second half, on Cal State Fullerton to take home a 5-2 decision.
The Gauchos (3-4-2, 1-0 Big West), who have won three straight, actually trailed 1-0 and 2-1 in the contest, but took the lead for good in the 58th minute after a frenzy that saw the two teams combine for three goals in the span of about a minute.
Encouragingly for UCSB, a trio of players (Derek Kryzda, Sahid Conteh, Adrian Adames) scored their first collegiate goals while the team's two offensive leaders thus far this season, Rodney Michael and Ignacio Tellechea, both added to their goal-scoring accounts with multi-point nights.
With the loss, the Titans (5-4-1, 0-1 Big West) dropped their 14th consecutive regular season game at Harder Stadium.
"A lot of credit goes to the players," said UCSB head coach Tim Vom Steeg. "We were down 2-1 but we didn't let it affect us, we just kept playing and working hard. Ultimately, we ending up taking over the second half. It's just one night but it feels good to score five."
With a goal and two assists, Michael was UCSB's top performer in the contest. Tellechea added a goal and an assist, and senior left back Randy Mendoza chipped in a pair of helpers. Though he didn't find his name on the scoresheet, sophomore forward Noah Billingsley put together a man of the match performance for the Gauchos, setting up a number of key opportunities.
A wild turn of events midway through the second half saw the Gauchos wrest both the lead and the momentum for the rest of the match. CSF's Bass Sarr briefly gave the visitors the lead in the 58th minute after heading home a far post corner kick, but the Gauchos roared back with two goals in the blink of an eye to go ahead for the first time all night.
Tellechea, operating down the left wing, was a key figure in both scores. On the equalizer, he sent in a cross from the left side and found freshman forward Sahid Conteh in the middle of the six-yard box, and Conteh was able to head it down and inside the far post for his first-ever NCAA goal.
Moments after the re-start, Mendoza played a long ball down the left touchline to Tellechea, who looked like he was going to cross again but instead rifled a left-footed shot into the top left corner for the eventual game-winner.
The Gauchos went on to add a pair of insurance goals off set pieces later in the second stanza.
Mendoza was the catalyst for the first of those goals, sending a free kick to the far post from the left side deep in CSF territory. Michael was able to beat his marker to the ball and headed it back across to the middle of the 18-yard box, where Adames pounced with a half-volley that got past Titans keeper Alfredo Cortez for his first NCAA tally.
Michael added his name to the scoresheet in the 77th, beating his defender to the far post on a corner kick and tapping in a cross that looked to be too-long with his right foot, sneaking it between the post and Cortez.
Though the score was 1-1 heading into the halftime break, UCSB was a bit unlucky to have the score knotted after a busy and productive, but not overly-fruitful, offensive effort.
The Gauchos had a trio of Grade-A opportunities turned aside in the opening-45, with Tellechea on the receiving end of two of those squandered chances.
Down 1-0 in the 23rd minute, Tellechea had the ball carom to him inside the six-yard box. The Spanish national connected well on his point-blank strike, but Cortez was able to stick his leg out and deflect the goal-bound shot away. A few minutes later in the 29th, a nice play on a 50-50 header led to a partial break for Tellechea on the left flank, but his eventual shot went wide right.
Tellechea also featured prominently in a 35th minute opportunity, sending in a shot that was blocked but came to sophomore midfielder Brandon Magpayo inside the six, but his low attempt to Cortez's right was saved with an outstretched leg.
The Gauchos finally broke through in the 41st, as Michael led a rush the other way, froze his defender before cutting into the box, and then played a pass off to his right for a waiting Kryzda, who slotted low to the keeper's right for the equalizer.
UCSB will look to sustain its strong play on Saturday night at Harder Stadium, welcoming in UC Riverside (0-8, 0-1) for a Big West clash. UCSBGauchos.com will have a live video stream of the match, featuring Voice of the Gauchos Gerry Fall on play by play.