Nov. 6, 2010
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Even though it was Senior Night at Meredith Field at Harder Stadium, it was a UC Santa Barbara junior that came up big for the Gauchos in their regular season finale against UC Riverside (6-11-1, 3-7) on Saturday night. Junior Luis Silva scored both of the Gauchos' goals as UCSB defeated the visiting Highlanders, 2-0, in front of a crowd of 5,103.
With the win, UCSB improves to 11-4-3 on the season and finishes the Big West regular season with a 7-2-1 record, which is good for second place. The Gauchos will carry the No. 2 seed into next week's Big West Conference Tournament and will face No. 3 seeded Cal Poly in the semifinals on Wednesday night at Harder Stadium. UC Irvine captured the regular season league title and the top seed. The Anteaters will host Fullerton in the other semifinal game.
UCSB and UCR both remained scoreless through the first half of Saturday's match. In the 58th minute, the Gauchos were finally able to break through the Highlander defense. Freshman David Opoku shoved the ball in front of Silva, who shot it inside the right post to put the Gauchos ahead, 1-0.
Silva struck again in the 72nd minute. Junior Danny Barrera passed the ball into the center of the box to Silva, who settled the ball, causing Riverside goalkeeper Nick Goldreich to fall off-balance. The midfielder then arched a shot to the left hand corner of the goal to stretch the UCSB lead to two goals.
"He's fitter, he runs better, and we know we just have to keep him further up the field," head coach Tim Vom Steeg said of Silva. "So tactically, we have to ask him to try to do more of his running off the forward and not necessarily running back on defense.
Silva, who led the team for shots with six, now has five goals on the season. Opoku recorded his fourth assist of the year on the first goal, while Barrera dished out his team-leading seventh.
Defensively the Gauchos were on-point all night as they limited the Highlanders to just four shots and one on-goal, both season bests.
The Highlanders' lone shot on-frame did not come until the 87th minute and was shot by Hayden Leslie straight towards UCSB goalkeeper Sam Hayden. The single save was all Hayden needed to make on his way to his 24th career shutout, which now ties him for third all-time in the UCSB record books with Kyle Reynish (2003-06).
For its part, UCSB posted 15 shots during the match with five on frame. The Gauchos have held the advantage in shots during all of their contests this year and in their last 20 games, dating back to last season's NCAA First Round match against Wofford (Nov. 19, 2009).
"I thought we stayed after it," Vom Steeg said. "They (UCR) played very, very hard in that first half. I knew it would start to slow down in the second half. You could tell right at the start of the half. They kind of dropped in and we got some things going."
UCSB finished its regular season with an average home attendance of 6,451 fans across nine dates, which sets a new NCAA record. The Gauchos set the previous record last season when they averaged 4,335 fans. Santa Barbara has led the nation in regular season attendance the past four seasons.
Wednesday's Big West semifinal game between UCSB and Cal Poly will begin at 7 p.m. at Meredith Field at Harder Stadium. Tickets can be purchased by calling (805) 893-UCSB, visiting the Ticket Office located inside the Intercollegiate Athletics building on campus or buy online by clicking here.
UCSB and Cal Poly students may purchase tickets to the Big West Tournament game for a discounted rate of $5.
UCSB is the proud host of the 2010 NCAA Men's College Cup, which will take place Dec. 10 and 12 at Meredith Field at Harder Stadium. This marks the first time since the 2004 season that the Cup has been held on the West Coast. All-Session passes for the College Cup can be purchased by calling (805) 893-UCSB, visiting the Ticket Office located inside the Intercollegiate Athletics building on campus or buy online by clicking here.