Nov. 11, 2006
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Trailing 1-0, the 17th-ranked UC Santa Barbara men's soccer team responded with a pair of goals from Bryan Byrne and Andy Iro in a span of less than three minutes and went on to defeat No. 30 San Diego State 2-1 in a NCAA Tournament First Round match-up Saturday afternoon at Harder Stadium.
With the victory, UCSB improves to 13-7 overall this season. The Gauchos have now won five consecutive matches in the opening (first or second) round of the NCAA Tournament and remain unbeaten at Harder Stadium in the Big Dance competition at 5-0-0. The Aztecs finish the season at 9-6-4.
For the second time in as many years, UCSB drew SDSU in the first round at Harder Stadium and, for the third time in the last three meetings the result was the same, a Gaucho victory by a one-goal margin. The difference in Saturday's match was that Santa Barbara was able to accomplish something they have not done all season--come from behind to win. 11 of UCSB's 13 victories have been shutouts and the Aztecs became just the second squad to find the net in a Santa Barbara win in 2006.
"The story of the game was definitely us being able to come back on somebody finally," head coach Tim Vom Steeg said. "We haven't been able to come back from a 1-0 deficit all year and to do it in a playoff game was no small feat."
The Aztecs came out of the gates firing and took the first three shots of the match. Senior goalkeeper Kyle Reynish made three of his total of five saves in the game's first five minutes, denying offerings from defenders Steve Beitashour, Kraig Chiles, and forward Daniel Ortega.
UCSB's first quality scoring opportunity came at the 32:24 mark, when freshman midfielder David Walker dribbled up field on the left wing, split two SDSU defenders and fired towards the net, but keeper Tally Hall was there for the first of his nine saves on the afternoon. Sophomore midfielder Chris Pontius had another good look seven minutes later but his header went wide right, and Hall stopped Alfonso Motagalvan's head ball with less than three minutes left in the opening period.
The score was deadlocked at halftime, with the Aztecs out-shooting the Gauchos 7-6.
That changed ten minutes into the second when San Diego State took 1-0 lead. Ortiz carried the ball in the middle of the field and chipped it over a Gaucho defensive back from about 30 yards out. Forward Freddy McDonald collected the ball on the run and, after Reynish came out on the play, slipped in just inside the left post at the 54:57 mark.
The Gauchos, who have struggled playing from behind all season, did not panic and continued to attack. After Hall made an impressive save on what looked to be a sure goal for sophomore midfielder Eric Avila, UCSB responded with the equalizer roughly ten minutes later. At 65:36, senior co-captain Byrne took a corner from the left side and Hall leaped up to punch his cross out of the box. The rebound went directly back to Byrne, who gathered himself and fired a bending shot back towards the net from just outside the box on the left wing. Hall got a hand on the ball, but it hit the crossbar and bounced straight down past the line for Byrne's third goal of the season.
Santa Barbara was unsatisfied with the 1-1 tie score and wasted little time before striking again. Less than three minutes after Byrne's equalizer, freshman forward Nick Perera found junior midfielder Tyler Rosenlund entering the box on the right side. Rosenlund crossed over to his left and shot and the ball ricocheted off an Aztec defender straight to Iro in the box. Iro cleaned up the mess at the 67:34 mark with his first goal of 2006, giving the Gauchos the final 1-0 advantage.
"We were playing with a lot of energy after the first goal," Iro said. "The crowd was back in it. I saw the ball get picked up on the outside and I came in because I thought (Avila) wasn't going to score and I hoped the ball would come back around to me. It did and all I had to do was put it in."
UCSB tried to tack on one more in the final 20 minutes, but Hall stopped a curling shot from Avila and blocked a rocket off the foot of senior midfielder Eric Frimpong. Avila had another shot from the top of the box blocked.
The Gauchos dominated play in the second half and out-shot the visitors 14-3. Avila led the way offensively with four shots, three of which were on frame, while Perera had three and Byrne and Walker took two shots apiece. McDonald led the Aztecs with three.
Santa Barbara will now fly to Dallas, Tex. to take on No. 3 seed Southern Methodist University Wednesday, November 15. The Gauchos and Mustangs, who finished the regular season with a No. 1 NSCAA national ranking, will square off at 5:00 p.m. (PT).