SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – UC Santa Barbara put together a solid first half on Thursday night against UC Davis and looked on its way to setting up a do-or-die game at Long Beach State on Sunday to determine the fourth and final seed in the Big West Tournament, but the visitors responded with a pair of goals in the second half to grab the 2-1 win and eliminate the Gauchos from postseason contention.
Sophomore midfielder Dakota Griggs scored in the 15th minute to put the cherry on a top of an extremely solid first half that saw UCSB greatly outchance the visitors while outshooting them 5-1.
But the Aggies righted the ship in the second half, with both teams notching five shots, and capitalized on their opportunities to spoil Senior Night for the Gauchos.
Olivia Jones notched the equalizer for UCD in the 60th minute on a bit of an odd play, coming out all alone from a 50-50 ball after a long free kick from the left side. With room to shoot at the right corner of the 18-yard box, Jones ripped a right-footed volley into the far right end of the net.
Needing the full three points out of the game, UCSB starting committing players forward after the equalizer resulting in a pair of opportunities, but it was the already-eliminated Aggies who were able to notch the next goal in the 87th minute.
With most of the team in the offensive half, the Gauchos were caught vulnerable on a break the other way. A bad pass from the left side to Nicole Carson seemed to stop the attack, but Carson instead corralled the pass, froze her defender while advancing on goal, then just as a pair of Gauchos stepped she ripped a perfect shot into the top left corner.
With just over three-and-a-half minutes left to even the score, UCSB wasn't able to create anything as the Aggies played keep away and cleared any ball sent their way.
Griggs's opening goal was created off a throw-in deep in Aggie territory, with Kate Shoemaker tossing it towards the goal line for Maddie Gibson, who shielded the ball from her marker before turning and managing a solid cross from the left side. Griggs ran from right to left to meet the pass with a first-touch shot past UCD keeper Alexis Smith.
Sophomore forward Mallory Hromatko created a pair of dangerous chances for UCSB, one in each half.
In the first, her agressive pressing in the offensive third forced a turnover in dangerous territory. After stealing the ball, Hromatko played a ball down the right side for Shaelan Murison that led to a close-range, short-angle shot that required a nice save from Smith.
Then during UCSB's second half surge, Hromatko created some room for herself in the box before taking a left-footed shot, but her attempt rolled wide of the right post.
Before the game, nine UCSB seniors were honored in the final home contest of their careers. Jacq Caginia, Hannah Dearborn, Ana Cruz, Ashley Dean, Sydney Fuertes, Kailey Hackett, Savannah Francis, Dakota Griggs and Cristina Polini each received a warm ovation from their teammates and the Harder Stadium faithful before kickoff.
The blue-and-gold on Thursday were without the services of top scorer Amanda Ball, who is out nursing a sprained ankle.
The Gauchos close out their regular season with a 2:00 p.m. tilt at Long Beach State on Sunday afternoon.