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SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Against a team in No. 1-ranked Stanford that entered tonight having won all seven of its games, the UC Santa Barbara men's soccer team battled to a hard-fought 3-3 draw after double overtime on Saturday night at Harder Stadium.
The Gauchos shocked the visiting Cardinal when they took the lead early in the 15th minute, after freshman attacking midfielder Finn Ballard McBride got the last touch on a ball delivered from senior left winger Thibault Candia's corner kick inside the six-yard box, backheeling it past Stanford goalkeeper Andrew Thomas and a number of defenders across the line.
UCSB doubled up on Stanford in the 20th minute off another set piece, this time a free kick from senior left wingback Ignacio Tellechea dropping in near the far post for senior striker Will Baynham to head into goal to put the Gauchos up 2-0.
The home side had a chance to make it three when Carter Clemmensen had a one-on-one opportunity saved by Thomas, who had come off his line to block the sophomore striker's shot.
Stanford would not go into halftime without having found the back of the net, however, and Arda Bulut made the most of teammate Ousseni Bouda earning control of a loose ball in the Gauchos' penalty area, as the two linked up for Bulut to strike into the top left corner of the goal to cut the UCSB lead to 2-1.
Three minutes into the second half, the Gauchos surrendered the equalizer to Stanford, after a corner kick from co-captain Logan Panchot caught the head of Keegan Hughes at the near post.
UCSB would regain the lead in the 63rd minute, when Ballard McBride set up junior right winger Rodney Michael for the Sierra Leone-native's first goal of the season, as he picked the ball up and made a cut out to his right, where he unleashed a distanced effort from 23 yards that sailed into the top right corner.
"Will Baynham had the shot first, and Finn [Ballard McBride] managed to get the ball out wide and I was at the top of the box hoping for him to see me. Finn played me the ball, I took a touch, saw a defender coming, took it to the right, unleashed one, and luckily it went into the back of the net and gave us a 3-2 lead," said the third-year of his goal.
The top team in the country would once again respond, leaving it for late in the 85th minute as a cross from Bulut on the left side bounced inside the box to his teammate Zach Ryan, who passed laterally to Charlie Wehan for the forward to bury his chance into an open right side of the Gaucho net.
Each team had a single chance to win it in overtime. Stanford captain Tanner Beason hit the near post on a corner kick in the 97th minute, just inches away from finding the winner for the visitors.
Senior centerback Faouzi Taieb was injured on the play and did not return for the rest of the match.
In the second overtime, Michael again sent a shot towards the top right with just over a minute to play, but Thomas was at the ready to make the save.
UCSB never fell behind against a team that had only trailed for 31 minutes all season and had been tied for only 63 out of 630 total minutes of play.
"I can't speak enough about how hard the guys played. I thought we battled toe-to-toe the whole game. We were explosive on the counter-attack and opened things up," said head coach Tim Vom Steeg after the match.
"It's really frustrating because the whole team battled so hard to get to that point where we were in the lead. They're a good team, and this was a very good result for us even though that was a game we should have won," added Michael.
Sophomore midfielder Sam Fletcher made his starting debut for the Gauchos in tonight's match.
"He was the player that I knew we'd get that kind of game from him, but you don't know until you put him out there. He played a monster game. The work he did in midfield, the tackling from both him and [senior defensive midfielder] Sahid [Conteh was fantastic]," Vom Steeg remarked.
The Gauchos will put their six-game unbeaten streak on the line on Tuesday at San Diego. A video stream, produced by the West Coast Conference and the University of San Diego, will be available, as will live stats. Additionally, an audio-only broadcast will be available, with coverage starting at 6:45 PM. All links can be found on the men's soccer schedule page.