Nov. 1, 2006
IRVINE, Calif. - Matt Murphy scored the game-winner in the 24th minute and Brad Evans put the game out of reach at the 76:35 mark, as 18th-ranked UC Irvine shutout No. 27 UC Santa Barbara in a battle between the Big West Conference's top two teams Wednesday night at Anteater Stadium. The loss drops the Gauchos into second place in the league standings entering the final game of the regular season Saturday.
With the biggest victory in program history, UCI improved to 13-3-3 overall and moved back into first place in the Big West with a total of 19 points at 6-2-1. UCSB fell to 11-7-0 and 6-3-0 in conference action and is one point behind in the standings. Despite the loss, the Gauchos can still clinch the Big West title with a win over UC Riverside and an Anteater loss or tie at Cal State Northridge Saturday.
After Irvine's two leading scorers Murphy and Evans missed the first match-up of the season October 7th out serving red card suspensions, they were eager to show that that had much to do with Santa Barbara's victory. The point was taken as each player found the net Wednesday night.
Murphy gave the Anteaters a 1-0 lead at the 23:09 mark, slipping the rebound off of a shot by midfielder Anthony Hamilton past UCSB goalkeeper Kyle Reynish. The defender's score snapped the Gauchos' streak of four consecutive games and over 540 minutes of play without allowing a goal.
UC Irvine scored again late in the second period after junior defender Jon Curry played a ball back to Reynish in the box. Under pressure, the reigning Big West Player of the Week misplayed the ball and forward Evans capitalized, tapping it into an open net for the final 2-0 advantage. Reynish finished with four saves for UCSB.
The Anteaters dominated the ball for the duration of the match and the Gauchos were unable to ever get anything going offensively. Without senior co-captain Bryan Byrne on the field, who was out serving a suspension due to card accumulation of his own, Santa Barbara struggled to get through the Irvine midfield all night. The Gauchos finished with a season-low five shots and, for the first time this year, did not register a shot on goal. Frimpong led the way with two shots for UCSB, while Evans and Hamilton each had four of UCI's total of 12.
"Obviously we're disappointed with the outcome of tonight's game," head coach Tim Vom Steeg said. "We had an opportunity to close out and win the conference tonight and we didn't play well enough to do so. As difficult as that is, we've got to come home and take care of business Saturday."
A record crowd of 1,561 was on hand at Anteater Stadium, breaking Irvine's previous mark of 1,545 set against UCLA in 2000.
The Big West Conference title will now come down to Saturday's games. The Gauchos will host the Highlanders at 7:00 p.m., already knowing the outcome of the UCI-CSUN match-up slated for 1:00 p.m.