Sept. 7, 2007
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Junior midfielder Chris Pontius and the ninth-ranked UC Santa Barbara men's soccer team needed just three minutes and 21 seconds to punch in the game-winner of a 2-0 shutout victory over visiting Wisconsin-Milwaukee Friday night at Harder Stadium. Senior forward Tino Nuñez scored the second goal of the evening 15 minutes later as the Gauchos won for the first time this season.
With the victory, UCSB improves to 1-1-1 in 2007, while UWM falls to 0-3-0. The Gauchos lead the all-time series with the Panthers 2-0 after recording a 2-1 double overtime win in the NCAA Tournament Second Round in 2004.
After playing 90 minutes with several missed opportunities in last Sunday's 1-0 loss to Gonzaga, Santa Barbara wanted nothing more than to come out and get on the board early against a Milwaukee team that had played much better than its 0-2 record coming into the match suggested.
The Gauchos looked sharp early and the offense wasted little time taking the 1-0 lead. In the fourth minute, sophomore midfielder Ciaran O'Brien lined up for a free kick on the left side and sent a ball sailing to the far post. Junior midfielder Alfonso Motagalvan used a chest trap to collect the offering and took a right-footed shot, but the ball deflected off of a Panther defender at the goal line and after bouncing around in the box, came out to Pontius, who cleaned it up to give the defending champions the lead for good at the 3:21 mark.
The goal was the Yorba Linda, Calif. native's first of the season and fifth of his career.
UCSB had a similar chance less than two minutes later on another O'Brien corner, but Motagalvan's header from almost the same spot on the field was turned away.
After taking a team-high six shots without success against the Bulldogs, Nuñez was eager to find the net for the first time this season Friday night. Junior forward Nick Perera left him a ball at the top of the box in the 14th minute, but Milwaukee goalkeeper Grant Fernstrum was there for the save. Five minutes later 2007 Hermann Trophy Candidate Eric Avila won a ball on the left side and dribbled towards the center of the field. After beating three would-be defenders with a nifty move, Avila found a streaking Nuñez to his right. Nuñez caught up to the pass in full stride and placed a shot in the top right corner of the net past the outstretched arms of Fernstrum for the final 2-0 margin.
From there the Gaucho defense took over.
Playing without senior co-captain and the emotional leader on defense in Greg Curry, who suffered a knee injury against Gonzaga, UCSB's backline and midfield stepped up in a big way. The defending corps of three-time All American Andy Iro, freshman Michael Boxall, and Curry's younger brother Jon teamed with midfielders Motagalvan and Brennan Tennelle to completely shut down the UWM offense in the first half. The Gauchos went on to out-shoot the Panthers 8-0 in the opening period.
UCSB was content with its 2-0 lead after intermission and played the visitors even for the final 45 minutes. Milwaukee recorded seven shots to Santa Barbara's five in the second half, but really had just one quality scoring opportunity all evening.
Freshman goalkeeper Bryant Rueckner needed to make just two saves to record a shutout in his first-career win. Despite allowing two early goals, Fernstrum was impressive for the Panthers recording eight saves of his own.
For the game, UCSB posted a 13-7 shot advantage and held a 6-3 edge in corner kicks.
The Gauchos now have a week off before heading to Albuquerque, New Mexico for next weekend's Nike/Crescent Financial Solutions Invite. Santa Barbara will take on SMU Friday in a rematch of last year's NCAA Second Round showdown before squaring off with host New Mexico Sunday.