Playing in front of 7,318 fans, the largest crowd at Harder Stadium this season, the UC Santa Barbara men’s soccer team capped off a perfect home campaign with a 2-0 shutout win over Cal Poly in the Blue-Green Rivalry match on Senior Night.
After four consecutive draws between these two teams at Harder Stadium, including five straight scoreless halves, the Gauchos finally broke the mold with a pair of second-half goals to secure the victory on Saturday.
With the win, UCSB (10-6-1, 4-2-1 Big West) finished a perfect 9-0-0 at home, its best home record since the 2002 Gauchos went 10-0-0. Santa Barbara is now unbeaten in four straight, with three straight wins at home, and secured the No. 3 seed in the upcoming Big West Tournament. Also, the win gives the Gauchos 10 for the season, making it the 17th time in 18 years that UCSB has notched double-digit wins.
Despite a scoreless opening 45 minutes of action, there was plenty of excitement to go around with highlight defensive plays on both sides. In the 28th minute, Axel Mendez fired a laser from beyond the 18-yard box that was heading for the left post before Cal Poly keeper Simon Boehme made the full extension save.
It was Ben Roach’s turn just one minute later after a Mustang counter placed Jared Pressley in an attacking position, but his shot was sent away as the freshman keeper dove to make his only save of the night.
It did not take UCSB long once the second half started to find the back of the net. In the 51st minute, Noah Billingsley started the play from the middle of the field about 20 yards out and found Thibault Candia at the top right corner of the box. Candia sent a perfect ball into the box to a diving Sahid Conteh, who fired near post for the goal.
When the Gauchos score, they score in bunches. Five times this season, UCSB has scored multiple goals within five minutes. It may have come 10 minutes later on Saturday, but it was Candia once again making things happen for his second multi-assist game of the year. The Nantes, France native dished another perfect ball into a streaking Kaya Fabbretti into the box, and the sophomore delivered his second goal in as many games to put the Gauchos ahead for good, 2-0.
UCSB outshot Cal Poly 17-8 while holding a 7-3 edge in corner kicks. Nine different Gauchos recorded a shot on the night, led by three apiece from Conteh, Mendez, and Rodney Michael.
The crowd of 7,318 is the third highest attendance mark in the nation this season and 49th largest in NCAA history. Prior to the match, seniors Joseph Ammer, Jan Ilskens and Mendez were recognized for their contributions and dedication to the UCSB men’s soccer program over the past few years.
UCSB, as the No. 3 seed, will host a Big West Tournament first-round matchup at Harder Stadium this Wednesday, Oct. 31 at 7:00 p.m. against No. 6 seed Cal State Fullerton. The Gauchos defeated the Titans 1-0 in overtime at home on Oct. 6.
UCSB will host the 2018 NCAA Division I Men’s Soccer College Cup on Dec. 7 and 9 at Harder Stadium. College Cup ticket packages as well as UCSB season tickets are on sale now and can be purchased online or by calling the UCSB Athletics Ticket Office at 805-893-UCSB.