Sept. 23, 2007
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Junior midfielder Chris Pontius tied the game with his third goal of the season in the 75th minute as the 14th-ranked UC Santa Barbara men's soccer team came from behind to tie No. 6 Harvard 1-1 in a non-conference match Sunday afternoon at Harder Stadium. The Gauchos, who faced a ranked opponent for the third time in their last four contests, recorded a season-best 27 shots against the visiting Crimson.
With its second draw of the season, UCSB's record now stands at 3-2-2, while Harvard went winless for its second straight match after winning its first six contests in 2007 and now owns a record of 6-1-1.
Santa Barbara was the aggressor throughout most of the opening half although neither team had many quality scoring opportunities. Both defensives did their part, continuously thwarting offensive pushes and clearing balls out of the box. The Gauchos out-shot the Crimson 7-4 in the first 45 minutes and Harvard goalkeeper Adam Hahn made two saves to keep UCSB off the scoreboard. UCSB best chance came in the 36th minute when junior midfielder Chris Pontius got behind the Harvard defense and sent a header towards the net, but his shot went wide right.
The game was deadlocked at 0-0 at half time.
Senior forward Tino Nunez and junior midfielder Eric Avila had opportunities in the first five minutes after intermission, but both of their offerings sailed high. The Gauchos continued to attack, recording seven shots in the first 10 minutes of the second half. Nunez had another great look one-on-one with the keeper, but Hahn was there again for the save. The rebound bounced back to Brennan Tennelle in the box, but Hahn came up big with another stop.
Despite UCSB's aggressiveness to start the period , it was Harvard that struck first taking a 1-0 lead in the 58th minute. Crimson midfielder John Stamatis raced to catch up to a ball just in front of the Santa Barbara backline. He dribbled to his right, beating two Gaucho two defenders before leaving it off for a streaking Andre Akpan to his left. The forward chipped it in to the far post past a diving Bryant Rueckner for the 1-0 lead at the 57:05 mark.
The defending national champions bounced back nearly 18 minutes later, finally finding the net at the 74:44 mark. From the left side, sophomore midfielder Ciaran O'Brien sent a corner kick sailing through the box, where Pontius leaped and sent a header directly towards the net. His shot ricocheted off the cross bar and bounced straight down past the goal line to tie the score at 1-1.
The Yorba Linda, Calif. Native leads the squad with three goals through seven games this season. Pontius had four goals in 43 career matches entering the 2007 season.
After several minutes mostly played between the boxes, the Crimson had an excellent opportunity to win the game in regulation when midfielder Michael Fucito slipped through the Gaucho defense with less than one minute remaining. He had an open look one-on-one with the keeper, but his shot missed wide just outside the right post.
The visitors had another great look in the first overtime when Fucito found Akpan just inside the 18-yard box in the 94th minute, but his shot was wide to the right. Both teams recorded two shots in the first extra period.
It was UCSB that controlled the second overtime period and the Gauchos had a pair of opportunities in the final 10 minutes, but were unable to convert on either occasion. Avila got a ball just inside the box on the right side in the 103rd minute and dribbled towards the endline before firing towards the net. His shot just missed slipping inside the far post. Senior forward Andrew Proctor had a breakaway less than a minute later but, with a defender at his hip, failed to put enough on his shot and Hahn made the save to preserve the tie for Harvard. The Gauchos held a 2-1 advantage in shots in the second overtime.
For the game, Santa Barbara out-shot the visitors 27-12, but the match was much more evenly played than the shot totals indicate. The Gauchos recorded four corner kicks to the Crimson's three and were whistled for three cautions. Alfonso Motagalvan, Proctor, and Michael Boxall were issued yellow cards for UCSB, while Akpan received one for Harvard.
Hahn finished the afternoon with seven saves, while Rueckner made just one.
UCSB returns to the pitch Saturday, September 29 at UC Davis. The Gauchos will battle the newest members of the Big West in their conference opener at 4:00 p.m.