Late Goal Stuns Gauchos in Big West Tournament Quarterfinals

Noah Billingsley (Photo by Eric Isaacs)
Noah Billingsley (Photo by Eric Isaacs)

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – No. 3 seed UC Riverside broke a scoreless tie with a goal in the 88th minute to upset the No. 2 seed UC Santa Barbara men's soccer team at Harder Stadium in the Big West Tournament Quarterfinals on Wednesday night.

With the Gauchos seemingly destined for their eighth overtime match of the year, UC Riverside utilized a throw-in from near midfield to generate a last chance opportunity. The ball made its way to Eduardo Sanchez on the right side of the box, and with a defender on his hip, he turned and fired across his body to the far post for the game-winner.

The victory marks the first ever Big West Tournament win for the Highlanders (5-12-1), who started the season 0-10 before getting hot in conference play. The Gauchos (6-8-5), meanwhile fall to 5-8-1 all-time in the Big West Tournament since it was implemented in 2008.

"We've had a challenging and trying season," said head coach Tim Vom Steeg. "We went the first six games scoring three goals, the first three games without scoring a goal and ironically, we finished the season the same way we started."

Injuries plagued UCSB throughout the year as it could not find consistency on the pitch, forced to shuffle lineups regularly. Despite the adversity and youthful group, the Gauchos advanced to the playoffs for the 15th time in the last 16 seasons.

Joseph Ammer, one of the players who recently returned from injury for UCSB, led all players on Wednesday with four shots, nearly scoring with a header that hit off the post. Recently named Big West Freshman of the Year Rodney Michael also had a near goal in the 78th minute with a chip shot that deflected off the far post.  

"Ultimately, scoring goals requires you to have enough quality players making good decisions and that gets you goals," said Vom Steeg. "We weren't dangerous and we weren't dangerous enough to go get a goal."

UCSB outshot UCR 11-7 and tallied all three corner kicks in the match. Ignacio Tellechea notched three shots and Michael finished with two.

The Gauchos figure to return much of their lineup for next year, graduating five seniors in Seo-In Kim, Alex Liua, Randy Mendoza, Omar Montalvo and Josue Salgado