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Soccer: Irvine Beats UCSB to Claim Big West Title

Despite the loss, the Gauchos may earn a trip to the NCAA tournament.

The UCSB men’s soccer team was vying for its third-straight league title and its sixth in the past eight years Saturday. But it was not to be as the Gauchos lost in the Big West Conference Tournament championship game to UC Irvine, 4-2.

UCSB, ranked as high as No. 19, is still likely to receive its seventh-consecutive NCAA Tournament bid. The NCAA Selection Show airs at 3 p.m. Monday on ESPNews. The Gauchos’ current run of six-straight NCAA appearances is the eighth-longest active streak in the nation.

The Gauchos have been a top-25 team all season and in the most recent RPI rankings, they were No. 9. UCSB finishes the regular season with a 10-6-5 overall record. UCI, ranked as high as No. 8 in the nation, finishes 14-1-6.

UC Irvine took a commanding 4-0 lead in the first half, as Rafael Macedo scored goals in the 10th and 26th minutes. Amani Walker’s goal in the 16th minute and Irving Garcia’s goal in the 39th minute put the Gauchos into a hole from which they couldn’t recover.

The four goals were the most that goalkeeper Kristopher Minton had allowed since taking over between the pipes in the middle of the season. Minton had allowed just two goals in the Gauchos’ past three games.

Both of UCSB’s goals came on penalty kicks as Chris Pontius converted one at 75:36 and Nick Perera put one away at 89:10.

For Pontius, it was his 14th goal of the season, which places him into a tie for sixth all-time by a Gaucho player in a single season. He is tied with Scott Grasinger (1982) and UCSB all-time points leader Drew McAthy (2003) for goals in a season. The record is held by Rob Friend, who put away 20 in the 2002 season.

Pontius’ goal also gives him 29 in his illustrious career, placing him fifth all-time in UCSB history. That is one more than UCSB assistant coach Neil Jones had in his excellent career, from 2001-04.

Perera, meanwhile, scored his eighth goal of the season which is a career high, as is his 19 overall points this season. Perera has scored three goals in his past two games and is second behind Pontius on the team in both points and goals.

UCSB outshot UCI, 20-13, but Anteaters goalie Andrew Fontein made nine saves and thwarted the Gauchos all night.

Should the Gauchos host a NCAA Tournament game, tickets will be available following Monday’s Selection Show. Click here for tickets, visit the Athletics Ticket Office in the ICA Building or call 805.893.8272.

Matt Hurst is UCSB’s assistant athletics communications director.

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