Gauchos Earn Spot in Big West Championship with Comeback Victory Over Cal Poly

Gauchos Earn Spot in Big West Championship with Comeback Victory Over Cal Poly

Nov. 10, 2010

Box Score

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Sophomore Nic Ryan propelled second-seeded UC Santa Barbara to a 2-1 overtime victory over No. 3 seed Cal Poly (8-7-3) with the game-clinching goal in the 98th minute of the Big West Conference Tournament semifinal game at Meredith Field at Harder Stadium on Wednesday night.

With the win, UCSB improves to 12-4-3 on the season and advances to the Big West Conference Championship game for the third consecutive season. As the highest remaining seed in the league tournament, UCSB will host the championship game on Saturday against fourth-seeded Cal State Fullerton, which knocked off two-time defending Big West champion UC Irvine, 2-1, on Wednesday night.

The game-winning play was begun by Josue Madueno who won the ball then passed it to David Opoku who drew out Cal Poly goalkeeper Patrick McLain before poking the ball to Ryan. The sophomore got around his defender before sending the ball to the low left corner of the Mustang goal. The goal was the second of Ryan's career and his second game-winner this season.

Cal Poly had gotten on the scoreboard first in the 37th minute. Junior Burgos sent a high cross into the box off a corner kick and Cameron Walters headed it toward the Gaucho goal. The shot was blocked by UCSB, but Chris Bernardi kicked the deflection inside the left post to give the Mustangs the 1-0 advantage.

UCSB's offense continued to battle and had five shots on goal late in the half, but it still trailed 1-0 heading into the locker room.

"There is one consistent thing with this team and that is we have trouble scoring early, we miss a lot of good opportunities, but we stay after it and don't quit," head coach Tim Vom Steeg said. "At halftime, you kind of look at each other and you say `we got to keep playing.' We have a lot of guys on this team that love to compete. So, they look at a 1-0 (deficit) and they see it as a challenge."

The Gauchos continued to battle early in the second half, but it wasn't until the 73rd minute that they were able to provide the equalizer. Sam Garza got control of the ball 50 yards out and then passed to Michael Tetteh who sent the ball to David Opoku on his right. Opoku had beaten two defenders straight down the middle of the field and was able to get around McLain - who had come out of the goal. He sent a shot to the low left corner, tying the game at one-all.

The goal was Opoku's sixth of the season and his second equalizer during a contest against the Mustangs this season.

Sam Garza led all players with nine shots during the match and he had three on frame. Gaucho goalkeeper Sam Hayden made three stops in his ninth win of the season. Meanwhile, Cal Poly's McLain tallied seven saves.

This marks the Gauchos' eighth match of the season to go into overtime, but just their second win in extra time. They now hold a 2-3-3 record in overtime games.

With the win, UCSB has now gone undefeated at home against Cal Poly in their last 12 meetings at Harder; UCSB has gone 11-0-1 in that span. The Gauchos also stretched their current home win streak to eight matches.

While the Gauchos have made appearances in each of the previous two Big West Championship games, they have yet to win the league tournament title. With the title comes the conference's automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament. UCSB has qualified for the NCAA Tournament the past eight seasons, but has not been the conference's automatic qualifier since 2007.

Saturday's Big West semifinal game between UCSB and Cal State Fullerton will begin at 7 p.m. at Meredith Field at Harder Stadium.

Tickets are on sale online by clicking here. Fans are encouraged to purchase tickets online and print their ticket at home to skip lines at the ticket booth on game day.

Tickets are $7 for adults, $5 for seniors, $5 for Fullerton and UCSB students, and $3 for youth.

The Ticket Office will be closed for Veteran's Day on Thursday, Nov. 11, but will reopen on Friday from 9 am to 4 pm and on Saturday from 10 am to 1 pm.

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.