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SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – It was a night to remember for the UC Santa Barbara men's soccer team as an enthusiastic crowd of 9,748 fans bore witness to the Gauchos' 3-1 drubbing of Cal Poly on Saturday night at Harder Stadium.
Sophomore striker Carter Clemmensen headed home his second goal of the season, junior right winger Rodney Michael put in a cross that was misplaced into the Cal Poly net by a defender, and freshman attacking midfielder Finn Ballard McBride scored his fourth goal to help UCSB secure an eighth consecutive unbeaten result.
"It was a lot of fun tonight because we had tremendous support from our students. We were able to get a goal in the first half, it levelled off a bit in the second half, and I thought the third goal was really important to finish the game. And not finishing the game in trying to hang on, but finishing it on an offensive note," said head coach Tim Vom Steeg after the match.
The Gauchos had a pair of quality chances early in the game, but were unable to convert on either.
The home side had a foursome of shots in the 15th minute, after a free kick delivered a ball into the Cal Poly 18-yard box, where it was headed into a crowd of Mustang defenders by junior centerback Hunter Ashworth before it was rejected into the path of senior striker Will Baynham, who sent a shot into the goalkeeper's chest, then senior right wingback Noah Billingsley, and ultimately Ashworth again.
Another opportunity followed in the 22nd minute when junior left winger Ameyawu Muntari forced a save out of Cal Poly goalkeeper Carlos Arce-Hurtado on a right-footed effort from outside the top of the box.
Exactly 32 minutes in, Michael hustled in a cross to the far post from the right wing and Clemmensen, fresh off the Gaucho bench for his first action of the game, was there to put the Gauchos ahead with the first goal of the night.
20 minutes later, Michael again outpaced the defense on the right side and looked for the same target with a cross at the near post, where it was put into the visitors' net by Cal Poly centerback Josh Graham for an own goal.
The Mustangs' Colin Hyatt saw red after picking up his second yellow card in the 77th minute after putting in a challenge on a Gaucho player in the midfield.
Cal Poly would score against the run of play in the 80th minute, when Zack DiDonato got on the end of Cal Poly's first and only corner kick of the night, passing to and connecting with Angel De Leon, who was in position at the goalmouth to tap the ball in to cut the Gaucho lead to 2-1.
As the clock ticked into the 84th minute, Ballard McBride picked up a ball from Will Baynham in midfield, dribbling to a position 23 yards out from goal and unleashing a shot into the bottom left corner of net off his right foot.
The Australian connection has been crucial for the Gauchos' run of good form, as the goal marked Ballard McBride's third in four games and Baynham's fifth game in a row with at least a goal or an assist.
UCSB had the lion's share of possession on the night, maintaining the ball 59% of the time.
The final attendance figure of 9,748 ranked as the 28th largest crowd in NCAA history.
The Gauchos open Big West play on Wednesday night against Sacramento State at 7 PM. A livestream of the match will be available, accessible via the men's soccer schedule page.