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Men’s Soccer: UCSB Tops Cal Poly in Big West Tourney Semifinal

The Gauchos advance to the finals, where they will play No. 1 seed UC Irvine on Saturday.

Senior Nick Perera has had a knack for coming up big in big games. He may have some company now on the UCSB men’s soccer team.

Perera scored two goals during regulation and goalkeeper Kristopher Minton stopped two penalty kicks during a penalty kick shootout as the No. 19 Gauchos beat Cal Poly in a Big West Tournament semifinal game Wednesday at Harder Stadium.

UCSB, seeded second in the four-team tournament, will play at No. 1 seed UC Irvine at 7 p.m. Saturday. The winner receives an automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament. UC Irvine defeated UC Davis 1-0 on Wednesday. The Gauchos’ victory along with being a top-25 team and a No. 9 RPI rating almost assures the Gauchos of their seventh consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance.

“We have played three crazy games against them,” Perera said about a 1-0 victory and 0-0 tie vs. the Mustangs during the regular season. “To win this one, in front of our home fans, was incredible.”

Perera was named the College Cup’s Most Outstanding Player in 2006 when UCSB won the national title and notched his second multigoal game of the season. He also scored the first UCSB goal in the penalty kick shootout.

Minton stopped the first two shots by Cal Poly’s Mario Fernandez and Kyle Montgomery, with the crowd of 3,601 erupting in delight. After Perera’s goal, Chris Pontius scored for a two-goal advantage.

The next three Cal Poly shooters all scored — although Minton got his hands on one of the shots — and Jon Curry missed his shot before Alfonso Motagalvan netted his. That meant that as freshman Michael Tetteh stepped up for his penalty kick, if he made it, the Gauchos would play for their third straight Big West title.

He did. Tetteh, kicking left-footed put the ball into the upper right-hand corner, as the Gaucho faithful stormed the field to celebrate.

Perera’s first goal at 63 minutes snapped a lengthy scoreless streak by the Gauchos. It was the team’s first goal since Peter McGlynn scored on Nov. 1, a string of more than 364 consecutive minutes without a goal. The goal came after Luis Silva flicked the ball to Perera about 15 yards in front of the goal and the senior blasted a shot into the right-hand corner of the net.

That set off the crowd of 3,601 as Perera’s goal tied the game at 1-1. Cal Poly (10-5-6 overall) scored the first goal of the game when Julian Alvarez flicked the ball over Minton’s head as the keeper came out to defend a breakaway at 15:40.

Just 3:52 after his first goal, Perera did it again and this time with help from Minton. The freshman goalie blasted a goal kick past midfield and Perera outraced his defender to the ball, starting a breakaway. As he corralled the ball, Perera netted a shot into the upper right-hand corner for a 2-1 lead.

Patrick Sigler, however, knotted things up at 2-2 when he headed in a corner kick and sent the third installment of the Cal Poly-UCSB rivalry this season into overtime. All three games between the schools went into overtime this year.

The Mustangs’ Eric Branagan-Franco had 11 saves — the most by a Gaucho opposing goalkeeper this season — as UCSB fired 30 total shots. That total was UCSB’s high for the year and the Gauchos had 13 on frame. Chris Pontius led the team with 11 shots while Perera had seven. Danny Barrera added four.

Minton made two saves during regulation, but his first two during the shootout were much needed.

UCSB will meet UC Irvine at 7 p.m. at Anteater Field on Saturday in the Big West Tournament final. The NCAA Tournament Selection Show is on Monday at 3 p.m. on ESPN News.

Matt Hurst is a UCSB assistant director of athletics communications.

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