The brilliance of goalkeeper Ben Roach and a first-half goal by Will Baynham carried the UCSB men’s soccer team to a 2-0 victory at Cal Poly on Saturday before more than 11,000 at Spanos Stadium.
The victory, combined with UC Irvine’s 1-0 loss to Cal State Northridge, gives UCSB second place in the final Big West standings and a first-round bye in this week’s conference tournament. The Gauchos will host a semifinal game on Saturday, Nov. 9.
“It felt great to have three or four days of practice and have a lot of players back,” coach Tim Vom Steeg said of the win. “This group has been very focused and has been a very disciplined group. We set a goal of getting three shutouts to finish the season on the road. I’m very happy for our players and very happy that we put in the performance that we did today.” .
Roach made 10 saves, including three in a rapid-fire sequence by the Mustangs in the 30th minute that kept the Gauchos ahead 1-0.
Baynham gave them the lead after a nice piece of ball movement in the midfield. Finn Ballard McBride fed Rodney Michael and he took the ball down the right side. Baynham came flying up the middle and Michael crossed him the ball.
Baynham cut the ball back against Enrique Bustamante, the last Cal Poly defender, before beating goalkeeper Carlos Arce-Hurtado with a right-footed shot in the 21st minute.
The Gauchos maintained the one-goal lead thanks to the stellar goalkeeping of Roach. The former Santa Barbara High standout made eight saves in the first half.
UCSB took a 2-0 lead in the 57th minute after Noah Billingsley created a turnover in the midfield. Michael took the ball up the middle and laid it off to Baynham who unleashed a shot that deflected off the foot of a Cal Poly defender and into the net for an own goal.
“Our game plan was to defend, keep them in front, and take the fans out of the game,” said Vom Steeg. “When we take off on a team and get in the open field in transition, we’re as good as anybody in the country. We thought the game plan was where we wanted it to be. I wasn’t concerned about a shot total as much as taking advantage of opportunities in the open field.”
On his celebration, Baynham put a blue and gold Mexican lucha libre wrestling mask on his head.
It was UCSB’s second win over the Mustangs this season. The Gauchos won a nonconference meeting, 3-1, before more than 9,748 fans at Harder Stadium. At that time, it was the largest college men’s soccer crowd of the season.
UCSB improves to 11-3-4 on the season while Cal Poly falls to 7-8-1.
— UCSB Men’s Soccer (@UCSBMensSoccer) November 3, 2019
✅Top 6️⃣ teams advance to league tourney
✅Top 2️⃣ seeds earn 1st round bye
— Big West Conference (@BigWestSports) November 3, 2019