No. 19 Gauchos Put Five Past No. 22 Cal State Fullerton, Extend Unbeaten Run

Will Baynham (Photo by Eric Isaacs)
Will Baynham (Photo by Eric Isaacs)

FULLERTON, Calif. – The 19th-ranked UC Santa Barbara men's soccer team extended its unbeaten run to ten-straight matches, its first of that length since 2014, with a dominating 5-0 victory at No. 22 Cal State Fullerton on Saturday night at Titan Stadium.

"We came down here and I thought we were very focused. I think we've been very focused. This is a group that really enjoys playing with each other, and we've gotten a better understanding of each other, especially up the field. To be fair, I wasn't entirely surprised with tonight. Maybe I was a little surprised with the five goals, but I wasn't surprised at what we were able to do," said head coach Tim Vom Steeg after the match to the "Voice of the Gauchos" Gerry Fall.

The Gauchos scored early and often in the matchup, finding the first goal just nine minutes into the game. Junior right winger Rodney Michael held up the ball on the right wing and beat his man to create space at the endline to deliver a cross along the ground that senior striker Will Baynham flicked past Titans goalkeeper Paul-Andre Guerin.

Exactly four minutes and seven seconds later, senior right wingback Noah Billingsley dribbled the ball into space near the top of the box and laid the ball off to a wide-open senior attacking midfielder Thibault Candia, who slid the ball into goal with his left foot.

"We got the ball up the field, which we tried to do the whole game. Noah got the ball into the attacking end and we had a 3-on-1 with Will Baynham. I told Noah to get the ball to me, and he slipped it between the defenders legs. I took one touch and blasted it past the keeper," said the Frenchman of the goal.

In the 29th minute, UCSB made it 3-0 after Billingsley gained control of a loose ball in the Fullerton box and played it to Michael, who ripped a shot that was deflected into goal by a Fullerton defender opposite of the way that Guerin was diving.

After the halftime break, Santa Barbara kept piling on the misery for Fullerton. Billingsley completed his hat trick of assists with a pass to Baynham, that was touched into the path of freshman attacking midfielder Finn Ballard McBride, for the Australian to shoot into the middle of goal on his right foot for his sixth of the season in the 60th minute.

In the 67th minute, junior centerback Hunter Ashworth completed the rout by heading a corner kick from Candia inside the near post.

The five goals scored tonight were the Gauchos' most since defeating Fullerton 5-2 at home in 2017. It was also UCSB's largest margin of victory since the team's 6-0 home win over Fullerton in 2011.

Billingsley became the first player in the Big West Conference this season to record three assists and the first Gaucho to achieve the feat since Memo Arzate in 2003.

"That was amazing tonight," said Billingsley, who became the first player in the Big West Conference this season to have three assists in a match. "I don't think we've won a game, 5-nil, in my four years being here. That was great to be a part of, and to do it away from home is crazy."

Sophomore goalkeeper Ben Roach made four saves to get the Gauchos their sixth clean sheet of the season.

The win improves UCSB's record in Big West Conference play to 2-0, sitting atop the table on goal difference.

The Gauchos look to avenge last season's 1-0 conference defeat against UC Riverside on Wednesday night at Harder Stadium. The action begins at 7 p.m. and will be livestreamed on BigWest.TV. As always, live stats will be available on the men's soccer schedule page.

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