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Sunday, February 17 , 2019, 6:11 am | Fair 49º

Sports: A Noozhawk Partnership with Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table, The Lab, and American Riviera Bank

UCSB Soccer: Gauchos Are Back With 4-2 Win Over Evansville

Pontius and Hedevag lift UCSB out of its losing skid —.just in time for No. 1 Wake Forest on Sunday.

Senior Chris Pontius opened and closed UCSB‘s scoring Thursday night as the Gauchos netted a season-high four goals in beating Evansville 4-2 and snapping a two-game losing streak.

The victory was a nice tune-up for the Gauchos, who host No. 1 Wake Forest at 6 p.m. Sunday in the inaugural Santa Barbara Challenge Cup, a match that pits the past two NCAA champions against each other.

Pontius, one of the team’s co-captains and on the Hermann Trophy watch list, pushed his team-high goals total to five in the victory and scored for the first time since Sept. 7 in a win over Loyola Marymount. It was Pontius’ second multigoal game of the season, as he also netted both goals in the season-opening 2-1 victory over Air Force.

Yet it was junior Martin Hedevag who scored the game-winner with a header off of Danny Barrera’s corner kick at 73:13 that snapped a 2-2 tie.

For Hedevag, who is seeing much more action, it was his second start and first as a defender, trying to add some muscle to a defensive unit that had allowed six total goals in losses last weekend to unranked Rutgers and Columbia. The consecutive losses were the first by UCSB since the 2006 season and marked their first winless road trip since 2000.

Hedevag’s header was perfectly placed into the lower right corner past Evansville (5-1-0) goalie Alec Dufty for UCSB’s (4-2-0) third goal of the night. Pontius ended the night’s scoring when he scored unassisted on a breakaway at 86:45, beating Dufty on a nice shot to the far right post that nestled into the net to ensure that the Gauchos wouldn’t lose a third game in a row. UCSB has not dropped three consecutive matches since losing five in a row from Sept.13-26, 2000.

Bryan Dominguez, the highly-touted freshman who entered the match goal-less through his first 19 shots this season, finally broke his drought. But just barely. From the top of the box late in the first half, the 5-foot-4 midfielder whistled a shot at Dufty, who deflected it, yet the ball trickled behind him and into the net for a 2-1 Gaucho advantage going into halftime.

However Evansville — which took a 1-0 lead on Mike Luttrell’s sixth goal of the year at 19:21 on Tom Irvin’s sixth assist of the year — tied it up at 62:42 when Kipp Erskine found the back of the net when he headed a ball through a crowd from six yards out.

The shot beat UCSB goalie Trond Helge Takset, but the freshman from Norway still managed to make a career-best four saves on the night.

He was aided by a relentless Santa Barbara attack that had 25 shots, including nine on goal, compared with Evansville’s eight shots, although six of them were on goal.

Pontius buried the first goal to tie things up at 35:32 on a low shot from the box after defender Michael Boxall dribbled in and sent a pass over to David Ponce, who found Pontius. Both Boxall and Ponce received an assist on the play, the first for each this season.

UCSB continually controlled the action and might have made the game a rout had they been able to punch in some more opportunities.

Senior Nick Perera missed out on his first goal of the season when he overshot the net midway through the second half after Pontius fed him with a picture-perfect through ball. Freshman Luis Silva had two chances to score his first collegiate goal but missed both opportunities, each shot sailing high over an open net.

Hedevag has now equaled his total goals from last season, when he scored twice on just three shots, and Pontius continues to lead a high-octane attack that has achieved 20 shots in four of the six contests this season.

Matt Hurst is UCSB‘s assistant sports information director.

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