October 20, 2007

10th-Ranked Gauchos Edge UC Riverside, 2-1

Oct. 20, 2007

Box Score

RIVERSIDE, Calif. - Sophomore midfielder Ciaran O'Brien scored in the 63rd minute to deliver the 10th-ranked UC Santa Barbara men's soccer team a 2-1 victory over UC Riverside in Big West Conference action Saturday afternoon at the UCR Soccer Complex. Eric Avila also found the net and Tino Nuñez recorded two assists for the Gauchos in the win.

With the victory, UCSB maintained its position in the Big West standings at 4-1-1 and improved to 7-3-3 overall in 2007. The Gauchos ended a previous skid that saw them tie UC Davis at home last week and lose at Cal Poly Wednesday night. Santa Barbara has not lost two in a row all season. The Highlanders fall to 4-4-5 overall and 1-2-3 in league with the loss.

After dropping a 1-0 decision to the Highlanders in Riverside last season, the Gauchos were eager to avenge that loss and came out looking to establish themselves early on. UCSB out-shot UCR 10-2 in the first half, but failed to convert on any of its chances.

That changed when Avila put the Gauchos on top just 1:13 into the second period. Nuñez and O'Brien worked a give-and-go with Nuñez eventually feeding a crashing Avila on the play. The junior midfielder then calmly slipped it past Highlander goalkeeper Charles Alamo into the right corner for the 1-0 advantage at the 46:13 mark.

The goal was the fourth of the season for Avila and first since the M.A.C. Hermann Trophy candidate found the net in the 59th minute at UC Davis September 29. Three of Avila's four goals in 2007 have come on the road.

The Highlanders bounced right back, scoring the equalizer less than three minutes later. Alamo hammered a goal kick downfield and the ball landed just inside the Santa Barbara box. Forward Cito Soriano corralled the ball and headed it over two Gaucho defenders to midfielder Zach Walker, who's shot to the bottom left corner beat UCSB keeper Bryant Rueckner to even the score at 1-1 in the 49th minute.

The Gauchos would not be denied in this one however, and pushed through with the eventual game-winner nearly 15 minutes later. Midway through the 62nd minute, Nuñez dribbled through two Highlander defenders, drawing the defense towards him and then slipped the ball to his left to a wide-open O'Brien who beat Alamo to give UCSB the 2-1 advantage at 62:34.

It was the sophomore transfer's third goal in the Gaucho blue and gold and first since he scored in UCSB's 3-1 win over No. 3 SMU September 14. O'Brien led the team with seven shots in the match, four of which were on frame.

Nuñez is now tied for the team lead with four assists this season.

The one goal lead would be enough for the Santa Barbara defense and the Gauchos held on for the 2-1 victory.

UCSB out-shot UCR 16-9 for the game and recorded four corner kicks to the Highlanders' two. Alamo made five saves in a losing effort, while Rueckner finished with three.

The Gauchos will now have a week off before returning to Harder Stadium Saturday, October 27 for a 7:00 p.m. match against league rival Cal State Northridge in the first of two meetings this season.

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