Nov. 16, 2001
Irvine, Calif. -
The first championship took a while, but it was worth the wait.
The UC Santa Barbara men's soccer team blanked UC Irvine 2-0 on Friday night, clinching the Big West championship, the first title in the program's NCAA Division I history.
UCSB, which snapped UCI's ten-match unbeaten string, didn't waste any time in staking claim to the league crown. In the fourth minute of the match, senior Jaime Ambriz took a long pass from senior defender Galen Donaldson and drilled a shot past UCI's goalkeeper to give the Gauchos a 1-0 first half lead. While both teams challenged on several occasions, the score remained 1-0 at halftime.
In the opening minutes of the second half, the teams continued to physically pound each other, but neither team could put one home. That changed in the 64th-minute, when UCSB's most potent offensive threat, junior forward Rob Friend, took a through-pass from freshman defender Tony Lochhead and placed a shot into the upper-left portion of the net, giving the Gauchos a 2-0 advantage. From there, it was UCSB's defense that had its way.
Freshman goalkeeper Dan Kennedy, ranked among the nation's top-20 in goals against average coming into the match, picked the right time to have one of his finest performances. Not only did he come up with five saves, one came on a penalty kick, preserving his seventh shutout of the season.
Statistically, the Anteaters outshot the Gauchos 10-4, but UCSB clearly had the advantage in quality opportunities, taking advantage of two. Friend's goal was his tenth of the season, the most by any player in the Big West, and a total that ranks him in a tie for eighth in school history.
With the win, the Gauchos, ranked eighth in the Far West, improve to 11-4-3 overall and 7-1-1 in the Big West. The 7-1-1 mark gives UCSB 22 points in the league standings. UCI, ranked sixth in the Far West, falls to 9-4-6 overall, 5-1-3 in the Big West with 18 points in the standings. Each team has one match to play.
UCSB closes the regular season on Sunday, November 18, with a 1:00 p.m. match at Cal State Fullerton. Despite the league title, the Gauchos do not receive an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. This is the league's first year back after an 11-year hiatus and it will not possess an automatic bid until next year. Now the Gauchos must hope for a NCAA at-large bid when the 48 bids are awarded on Monday. If UCSB were to receive a spot in the NCAA Tournament, it would be the first in the program's history.