Dec. 12, 2004
CARSON, Calif. - The questions and answers in the postgame interview room at the Home Depot Center following Sunday's riveting College Cup championship match centered on one theme: domination. Ball possession. Fitness. Scoring opportunities.
Despite a 1-1 tie at the end of regulation and two overtime periods, the feeling was that the UC Santa Barbara men's soccer team had indeed dominated for the better part of the last 65 minutes of play. But in the end, Indiana walked away with the College Cup national championship trophy after edging UCSB 3-2 in a penalty kick shootout before a boisterous crowd of 13,601.
"Someone tell me that we lost," said UC Santa Barbara head coach Tim Vom Steeg. "Obviously, it's a very disappointed locker room. I guess it's disappointing because I thought we played so well. I thought the second half we had some good opportunities, and in overtime we kept coming. Not in my wildest dreams did I think we could play that well against that team over the course of 110 minutes, so I thought it was a great performance."
The Gauchos, who had scored in the opening minutes of each of their last two NCAA Tournament matches, almost did it again. In the sixth minute, Neil Jones took a pass from Pat Scott and redirected a header that deflected off the right post and bounced away.
To Indiana's credit, the Gauchos were unable to mount much of a serious attack for the remainder of the first half. The Hoosiers struck first in the 27th minute to open the scoring. Defender Jed Zayner's through ball up the middle drew UCSB goalkeeper Dan Kennedy out of his box. Kennedy misjudged the speed of the pass and could not beat a streaking Jacob Peterson, who poked the ball into the net from 18-yards out for the 1-0 lead.
UCSB came out a different team in the second half and overtime, controlling the ball almost solely on IU's side of the field. The Gauchos saw their persistence pay off in the 81st minute on a wild play in front of the Indiana goal.
Tyler Rosenlund served a long ball into the goalie box, where Jones attempted a header that was blocked. Ivan Becerra collected the rebound and unleashed a shot that Zayner deflected. The ensuing rebound squirted about 10 yards out to McAthy, who turned to his left and slammed a rocket into the lower left corner past IU keeper Jay Nolly. It was McAthy's third goal of the College Cup and his team-leading 18th of the season.
Before the play that netted the game-tying goal, Becerra, who entered the match in the 76th minute, nearly provided the equalizer immediately upon stepping onto the field. His 22-yard rocket went just over the crossbar in the 78th minute. Prior to that, McAthy hooked an 18-yard free kick just wide.
UCSB continued to push the ball into IU territory, peppering the defense with crosses and deep balls while keeping possession with crisp short passes. The Gauchos outshot the Hoosiers 6-3 in the second half and drew nine corner kicks to IU's one over the final 65 minutes.
"I still felt we were in good shape the whole game. They (Indiana) came out and sat in the second half and you cannot do that against us," said Vom Steeg. "Right after we scored, we had more opportunities."
But the match went into penalty kicks, the third time in College Cup history that a championship match had been decided by that format. UCLA beat Rutgers in 1990 and Virginia defeated Santa Clara in 1991.
UCSB coaches had predetermined that backup goalkeeper Kyle Reynish would line up against Indiana's five kickers. Reynish, who stands 6-foot-4, is three inches taller and rangier than Kennedy, who made five saves during regulation and overtime.
Reynish did his part to make the move look genius.
He started out by blocking IU's Drew Moor on a diving stop to his right. McAthy followed with a score on UCSB's first attempt for a 1-0 edge. After John Michael Hayden tied the shootout at 1-1, Jones stepped up for UCSB and missed high over the crossbar. IU's Greg Badger and UCSB's Becerra traded goals for a 2-2 tie.
In the fourth of five PK rounds, Reynish gave the UCSB faithful a huge boost when he blocked Brian Plotkin's attempt, again on a dive to his right.
But Nolly responded for the Hoosiers on UCSB's next opportunity, when he blocked Tony Lochhead, who tried to bust through on the right side. Mike Ambersley gave the Hoosiers a 3-2 lead after knocking his attempt into the upper right corner.
Up stepped junior Nate Boyden for his attempt to tie the shootout and send the match into overtime penalty kicks. But Nolly dove to his left and blocked his third shot in the final four UCSB tries, sending the Hoosiers into a frenzied celebration while several Gaucho players collapsed on the field in disbelief.
"It was definitely a bad PK, plain and simple," Boyden said. "It was very saveable. It was right at the height that a big goalkeeper would like, so I thought it was an easy save for him.
"What is most disappointing about the game is that it had to be decided on PK's. I thought that we played well. I thought we dominated. I thought it was our game to win and that just didn't happen today."
Kennedy concurred while also praising Reynish for putting the Gauchos in position to win the shootout.
"I think you could see it on the field today what happened," said the two-time Big West Goalkeeper of the Year. "I thought we ran at them consistently and unfortunately it turned out in PK's and we were at the bottom end of it.
"Kyle is a great shot stopper. He's got a couple inches on me, so he's long and in that situation that's all you can ask for. He made two big saves and it was just unfortunate that we didn't get enough. Any time you're in a championship game, you just don't want to go to penalty kicks."
The Gauchos finished a remarkable season with a 21-3-1 record. It marked their first overtime loss this season, after going 6-0-1 in their previous seven tries. Indiana notched back-to-back championships for the third time in school history and its seventh overall.
Four Gauchos were honored on the 2004 NCAA Men's Soccer College Cup All-Tournament Team. Freshman defender Andy Iro, Kennedy and Lochhead made the team, while McAthy was named the Offensive Most Outstanding Player. Nolly was tabbed the Defensive Most Outstanding Player.
UCSB knocked off IU 1-0 in double-overtime earlier this season to snap the Hoosiers' 23-match unbeaten streak. That win staked UCSB's claim to No. 1 in the polls, which it held for the majority of the season.
The irony of Indiana's feelings about that result back in September and UCSB's feelings about today's result was not lost on Boyden.
"The game that we played against them earlier, I think that we used some of the quotes they had for motivation because they felt they dominated and didn't get the right result. Today I think that's how we feel. We feel we dominated and we didn't get the right result."
But for Gaucho seniors McAthy, Kennedy, Lochhead, Jones, Jon Apilado and Matt Bly, the 2004 squad set a standard for the program for future years to come. The six seniors helped UCSB post a combined record of 55-11-3 over the last three seasons.
"I think the university needed that one team to be able to break into the championship of the College Cup and we were that team for UCSB," said Kennedy.
Vom Steeg offered up praise for everyone surrounding the UCSB program.
"This program is growing. Obviously we now have the championship experience, and how great were our fans today? The community and the school want this to keep going, and there's no reason why we can't be a top ten school for years to come."