Nov. 4, 2006
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - On Saturday afternoon the UC Santa Barbara soccer team got some help when rival Cal State Northridge beat UC Irvine, 1-0. On Saturday night, the Gauchos (12-7-0 overall, 7-3-0 in the Big West) helped themselves to the 2006 Big West Championship and an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament with a 4-0 shutout win over visiting UC Riverside (5-12-2 overall, 2-6-2 in the Big West).
In need of a win to secure the outright league crown and an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, UCSB got an early lift and momentum boost from senior goalkeeper Kyle Reynish.
In the eighth minute, UCR midfielder Brandon Plummer broke free on the left side of the penalty box. After eluding the Gaucho defense, Plummer unleashed a rocket aimed at the far post. Reynish dove and deflected the ball just wide to preserve the 0-0 score.
About six minutes after Reynish's spectacular save, UCSB broke the scoreless deadlock. At 13:58, sophomore midfielder Eric Avila carried the ball into the middle of the penalty box, drawing the defense to him. With the defense converging, Avila slipped a pass to a streaking Eric Frimpong who one-timed a shot just inside the right post for a 1-0 lead.
Santa Barbara made it 2-0 at 36:48 when sophomore midfielder Chris Pontius slid a pass from left-to-right across the top of the box to sophomore forward Nick Perera. Perera, near the middle portion of the box sent an arcing shot just out of the reach of Highlander goalkeeper Charles Alamo and into the upper-right corner of the goal.
Just over 20 minutes into the second half, UCSB got an insurance goal. Junior midfielder Brennan Tennelle beat his defender on the left sideline and flicked a pass to Avila who dribbled past another UCR defender and pounded a shot from around 15 yards out, into right post, giving the Gauchos a 3-0 lead at 65:22. Tennelle scored the final goal of the match when freshman Bongomin Otii trapped a long ball and dropped a pass to him about 10 yards above the center of the box. Tennelle one-timed a rocket past Alamo to make it 4-0 Gauchos at 76:05.
The match marked the final regular season home appearance for four Gaucho seniors and with just over four minutes remaining, three of them, Frimpong, Bryan Byrne and Jeff Murphy, were subbed out to a rousing ovation. The fourth senior, Reynish, is the only goalkeeper that UCSB has used this year and he went the distance, recording his 11th shutout of the campaign.
The victory gives the Gauchos 21 points in Big West play, two more than UC Irvine, which finished in second-place. UCSB reclaimed the league crown for the first time since 2004, and will advance to its fifth straight NCAA Tournament. The Gauchos will learn where and against whom they play on Monday afternoon at 1:00 p.m.