Two days after the UCSB men’s soccer team bested Oregon State by two goals at Harder Stadium, the Gauchos wasted no time staying on the offensive Sunday night against Utah Valley, defeating the Wolverines 5-1 at home.
With the win, Santa Barbara improved to 5-1-1 overall while Utah Valley fell to 2-2-1.
“We are improving, we are getting better, you can see that on the field,” coach Tim Vom Steeg told Noozhawk after the game.
“Utah Valley is a good team. They tied against Oregon State, they beat Northridge, so we are seeing improvements. Our connections, our movements, our interplay, I am liking it all.”
UCSB was ready to play from the jump Sunday night, a bit different from the team’s start Friday night against Oregon State, Vom Steeg said.
That focus helped the team net four goals in the first half, including two within the first two minutes of the contest.
First, in the seventh minute, junior midfielder Nemo Philipp laid a beautiful cross that found senior defender Henry Davies, who was wide open and headed the ball in for his first goal of the season.
One minute later, forward Alexis Ledoux received a wonderful through pass to find an opening toward the Utah Valley net.
The sophomore attempted to pass the ball back toward the top of the box, but in doing so, hit a Utah Valley player who deflected the ball right into the goal.
“We just took advantage. I think we outsized them in the box and we hit quality balls and we scored on a couple set pieces, and then broke the thing open,” Vom Steeg said.
“We came out with a lot of energy. I know we were fired up to play tonight to start with, and so when the goal is coming right after the other, it makes a big difference. … You’ll take the goals whenever you can get them, but I was expecting that we would get goals tonight because of what we saw on film.”
The Gauchos third goal came in the 23rd minute, as junior forward Finn Ballard McBride was in the right place at the right time, connecting with a ball in the box to just beat the Wolverines keeper.
Then, in the 41st minute, a powerful shot from Salvador Aguilar forced a great save from the Wolverines’ keeper, but the shot bounced to Rigoberto Barragan, who struck the ball with his left foot, giving the Gauchos a commanding 4-0 lead.
“That’s what I was most happy about in terms of performance,” Vom Steeg said. “As we started we were on our front foot, we were getting after them and we closed a lot of things down. We created the corner kicks and they are a team that’s got seven games on the road, and we took full advantage of it tonight.”
UCSB conceded its only goal of the contest in the 56th minute, when Utah Valley’s Mark Andros took the ball from midfield, beating a few defenders along the way, and slotted a shot past goalkeeper Leroy Zeller.
Zeller, a junior, didn’t let the one shot get in his head, however. He came up with two of his four saves in the match after that shot.
“Last year, I came from a Division II program and didn’t play a year of soccer,” Zeller said. “I came here and it’s been a lot of improvement for me personally. I feel a lot more comfortable on the ball and making those saves, which I wasn’t able to last season, working very close with our goalkeeper coach David Elias, who does a brilliant job.”
Our whole goalkeeper group pushes a lot in practice and I feel very comfortable. I played the most minutes in the nation last year and that is definitely helping with experience.”
UCSB would score its final goal of the contest in the 78th minute, when Phillip sent a perfect shot that found the top corner of the net.
“Our attackers are awesome to watch. We have a lot of speed up front, all of them,” Zeller said.
UCSB will host Grand Canyon in its next contest on Saturday, Sept. 17, at 7 p.m.