Nov. 2, 2005
Northridge, Calif. - 13th-ranked UC Santa Barbara's dreams of a fourth Big West Title in five years were delivered a crushing blow this afternoon, as the Gauchos dropped a 1-0 affair to 14th-ranked, and conference leading, Cal State Northridge. The loss was the Gauchos first in conference play this season, dropping them to 5-1-2 in league play, and 10-4-3 on the season. The win improved the Matadors to 7-0-1 in the Big West.
Northridge netted the matches lone goal, on what was its only true quality scoring chance of the game, in the 14th minute when Daniel Paladini finished off a flurry in front of the Gaucho net. Paladini came running out of the midfield, losing his defender in the process and collected a cross in the top left corner of the UCSB penalty box. Jeff Murphy, who was already marking a man in the box, came off his to pick up the wide-open Paladini and poked the ball away. Paladini tracked the rebound down and hit a shot to the near post, but Murphy came up huge again kicking Paladini's shot off the line with the rebound careening back into the box. Paladini grabbed the loose ball and went to the far post, trying to chip a sprawling Kyle Reynish. Reynish held his own and reached up to bat the shot down. Still unmarked, Paladini picked up his own rebound and this time he was able to split the defense and slipped a shot just inside the right post for a 1-0 Matador lead.
UCSB nearly tied things up late in the first half with a trio scoring opportunities in the half's final five minutes. The first was an Andrew Proctor shot from ten yards out that goalkeeper Kevin Guppy was able to knock down. The second was 20-yard blast by Chris Pontius from just inside the penalty box, he beat his man one-on-one and ripped a shot into the top corner that Guppy came down with. And the final was a beautiful turn and shot by Nick Perera. Tyler Rosenlund played a ball into Perera just inside the penalty box and he turned on his man and arced a shot towards the near post but Guppy once again came up for CSUN.
The second half slowed down quite a bit in terms of scoring chances with the hosts settling into more of a defensive stance. However, the Gauchos continued to battle up until the end with their hopes of another Big West title on the line. UCSB earned a couple of late corner kicks and senior forward Jonathan Davis had a breakaway opportunity poked away at the last minute by his defender before he could get the shot off. And sophomore defender Andy Iro, who head coach Tim Vom Steeg once again opted to move to the forward line, was able to get his head on a trio of crosses but they were either saved by Guppy or went just over the cross bar.
The final box was a true indicator as to how close the top of the Big West Conference has been in recent years. With the Matadors now five points ahead of UCSB with just two matches remaining for both teams it looks as if the league title will have switched back-and-forth for the fourth straight season between Santa Barbara and Northridge. UCSB and CSUN each finished with 15 shots and six saves in the match. The Matadors held the slight advantage in shots on goal at 7-6, however four of those came in the flurry leading to Paladini's goal for the hosts. In the first head-to-head battle this season in Santa Barbara, the match ended in a 2-2 tie.
Without a match for the remainder of the week, the Gauchos close out the regular season next week with their final two matches, needing a good showing if they want to receive an at-large berth into the NCAA Tournament. Having made the Big Show for three seasons straight, wins next week at UC Riverside and at home against UC Irvine are imperative if Santa Barbara wants to make it in. The Gauchos and Highlanders will do battle on Wednesday, November 9th at 2:00 p.m. before UCSB returns home to host the Anteaters in its regular season finale on Saturday, November 12th at 7:00 in Harder Stadium.