They also hadn’t been beaten in a regular season game, dating back to October.
All that changed on Friday when the Gauchos, ranked sixth in the country, were stunned by unranked Rutgers, 3-2 in a sloppy, muddy pitch that had several standing puddles of water in Piscataway, N.J. The win was RU’s first victory over a ranked opponent since defeating No. 18 USF on Oct. 20, 2007.
The rain began several hours before the game and cast a relentless shower over the field throughout the match, creating a very slippery and unpredictable surface. With unsure footing, players were continually sliding across the soggy ground, which affected either side’s ability to get into a solid rhythm.
“Maybe the water helped us a little bit because it slowed their game down, but you still have to score goals and get down to business,” Rutgers coach Bob Reasso said. “On the balance of play, I thought we were doing more passing than they were. They got their first goal because we didn’t do a good job marking, but after that, I thought we sorted everything out and we came out ahead.”
UCSB (3-1-1) had leads of 1-0 and 2-1, paced by goals from Alfonso Motagalvan and Danny Barrera — both on assists from Martin Hedevag — but couldn’t slow down Rutgers’ Dilly Duka, who scored both equalizers before Gaetano Panuccio put away the game-winner in the 76th minute. It was the first-ever meeting between UCSB and Rutgers (3-1-1).
The Gauchos’ only previous defeat in the regular season while playing in Eastern Standard Time came on Aug. 27, 2006, when Virginia beat UCSB 1-0. The Gauchos are now 11-4 all-time under Vom Steeg while playing on the East Coast, including two defeats in the NCAA Tournament.
The loss ended UCSB’s unbeaten regular season string at 10 games as well, the Gauchos having gone 9-0-1 since an Oct. 17, 2007, loss to Cal Poly.
The Gauchos got on the board first when senior Motagalvan scored from six yards out at 13:56 on a pass from Hedevag, who was making his first start of the season. The goal, Motagalvan’s first of the year, was enough for the Gauchos to take a 1-0 lead into halftime.
Duka, a sophomore, who leads the Scarlet Knights with four goals, evened things up at 48:31 when he sent in a shot from 20 yards out past UCSB goalkeeper Trond Helge Takset. Takset finished the night with three saves.
Barrera scored his first collegiate goal at 68:16 when Hedevag sent him a pass across the box where Barrera chipped the ball toward the goal and over the head of goalie Amir Haghshenas. The ball hit the crossbar before landing inside the net for a 2-1 advantage.
Duka scored his second goal of the match at 74:02 when he took a free kick from Kevin McFadden and put it into the lower right corner past Takset. Less than two minutes later, the Scarlet Knights had their biggest upset in program history when Panuccio knocked in a rebound after Takset had initially saved a free kick.
Things got chippy after Panuccio’s goal, with Bryan Dominguez receiving his second yellow card of the match — making him ineligible for Sunday’s contest — and Jon Curry also received a yellow card. Dominguez, a freshman, has received four yellow cards this season and if he receives a fifth, he will be forced to sit out another game.
After climbing as many as eight slots in the NSCAA poll and seven places in the Soccer America poll this past week, the Gauchos are certain to fall. UCSB concludes its East Coast swing on Sunday when they face Columbia, coached by former UCSB assistant Leo Chappel.
UCSB then returns home to face Evansville on Thursday before a much-anticipated match vs. No. 1 Wake Forest on Sept. 21 that will pit the past two national champions against each other in the Santa Barbara Challenge Cup.
Matt Hurst is UCSB‘s assistant sports information director.