Two weeks after suffering a three-goal loss at UC Riverside to close out the regular season, the UCSB men’s soccer team was seeking revenge in a contest with much bigger stakes — the Big West Championship crown and an automatic NCAA Tournament bid.
Saturday’s contest finished with a lot less scoring but, unfortunately for the Gauchos, the result was the same.
A goal from UCR’s Luka Lukic in the 43rd minute proved to be enough for the Highlanders to secure a 1-0 win and claim their second Big West title in program history.
UCSB is now 0-6 all-time in Big West Tournament road matches.
Santa Barbara outshot Riverside 8-6 , but both teams each had four shots on goal.
The Gauchos (10-4-6 overall) had their fair share of opportunities to open up the scoring in the first half.
In the 32nd minute, a beautiful pass into the box found the head of junior forward Finn Ballard McBride who whipped the ball to the left corner. Highlanders’ keeper Carlos Gonzalez made the clean save, however.
A couple minutes later, Ballard McBride again had a shot, this time kicking the ball toward the left corner. Gonzalez swatted the ball away. Eddie Villeda also put a shot on goal and it was swatted away for a corner kick.
On the ensuring corner, the ball found Filip Basili who shot the ball straight at Gonzalez, an All-Big West First-Team goalkeeper. He finished with four saves on the night, all coming within that four-minute onslaught from UCSB.
The Highlanders had their opportunities as well, but none bigger than in the 43rd minute.
A foul gave the Highlanders a free-kick opportunity from just inside the center line. Senior defender Brendan Clark whipped the ball into Lukic, who wasn’t marked as strongly.
After a couple of bounces, Lukic got a head to the ball and sent it past UCSB goalkeeper Leroy Zeller for the eventual game winner.
In the second half, the Gauchos saw hardly any opportunities as the Highlanders, for the most part, dropped into a prevent defense.
UCSB mustered just two shots in the second half. Caden Vom Steeg was wide on his attempt in the 52nd minute abd Lucas Gonzalez was blocked by a UCR defender in the 54th.
Following the loss, the Gauchos’ season is likely over , barring earning an at-large bid for the NCAA Tournament. The tournament selection show is Monday at 10 a.m.
Coaches and players were not able to be reached after the game for comment.