Leroy Zeller
Leroy Zeller, the College Soccer Men's Player of the Year, posted six shutouts for the UCSB men's soccer team during the 2022 season.

Goalkeeper Leroy Zeller got in a lot of work on Wednesday night and he did his job well for the UCSB men’s soccer team.

Zeller made a career-high nine saves and completed his fourth straight clean sheet as the Gauchos blanked Sacramento State, 3-0, at Harder Stadium.

Ameyawu Muntari, Nemo Philipp and Salvador “Chava” Aguilar scored as UCSB extend its unbeaten streak to nine matches and kept its hold on first place in the Big West.

The Gauchos are 5-0-2 (17 points) in conference and 9-3-4 overall. UC Irvine (4-1-2) is in second place, three points behind.

Zeller cleanly handled everything Sacramento State fired on him. One of his best saves came in a one-on-one situation with the Hornets’ speedy forward Titus Washington early in the second half. Zeller covered the near post and smothered the shot.

“Well, first of all it’s my job,” the 6-5 sophomore from Zülpich, Germany said of his work in the goal. “It’s why I’m here. The easiest way to win or to like a team is not let a goal in. With the defense today, I think we did a good job again.”

The Gauchos scored two goals in the first half. Muntari got them on the board off of a corner kick from Caden Vom Steeg in the 32nd minute. Muntari got in front of Sacramento State defender in the 6-yard box and snapped a header past goalkeeper Ryan Curtis.

In the 42nd minute, Philipp made it 2-0 with his first college goal. He worked a nifty combination with Thaabit Baartman at the top of the box and blasted a shot inside the left post and past a helpless Curtis.

“We had a good combination with Thaabbit, and he laid it off to me, said Philipp. “I took a shot and it was like, ‘I guess it’s the time to score my first goal. I had a couple of good looks the last few games and I think the goal was coming. And today was finally the time and I’m very happy.

“We, of course, got the win, so it’s a great feeling.”

Aguilar capped the scoring in the second half, finishing a rebound of a shot by Rigoberto Barragan in the 79th minute. It was his fifth goal in his freshman season.

Aguilar said he’s feeling more comfortable on the field with his teammates.

“I’ve learned to combine more with my players under me,” he said. “They’ve learned how to find me more and, obviously, the chances are coming and the goals are coming. It’s a great feeling.”

Nemo Philipp

Nemo Philipp celebrates scoring his first collegiate goal. Philipp scored off a pass from Thaabit Baartman(8) in the second half. (Felipe Garcia / Noozhawk photo)

The victory came with a price as offensive standouts Diran Bebekian and Muntari had to leave the game with injuries. Bebekian suffered a head injury from a collision in the first half and Muntari pulled up with an apparent hamstring issue after taking a shot on goal early in the second half.

The Gauchos are already missing Carson Vom Steeg and Lucas Gonzalez who are sidelined with injuries.

UCSB next plays host to UC Riverside on Saturday. A victory would clinch a tie for the Big West title and be the 10th win of the season.

UCSB coach Tim Vom Steeg believes reaching 10 wins is the mark of a good college season.

“I’ve always looked at 10 wins as a kind of benchmark for Division 1 college soccer,” he explained. “Anytime you pick up 10 wins, it’s a good season.

“We got a nice run going right now.”

Noozhawk sports editor Barry Punzal can be reached at bpunzal@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk Sports on Twitter: @NoozhawkSports. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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Barry Punzal, Noozhawk Sports Editor

— Noozhawk sports editor Barry Punzal can be reached at bpunzal@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk Sports on Twitter: @NoozhawkSports. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.