Pontius scores from distance; Gauchos score a must win

Tim Pontius plays center back for the UCSB men’s soccer team.

But after Wednesday’s crucial 3-1 win over UC Davis, he’ll be remembered as the Gaucho who scored one of the longest goals in program history at Harder Stadium.

Pontius caught UC Davis goalkeeper Omar Zeenni far off his goal-line and alertly hit the ball from 61 yards that sailed into the back of the net as Zeenni desperately tried to scramble back and stop it.

Tim Pontius blasts a shot from midfield that sailed over the Davis goalie who had moved too far upfield. It was Pontius's second goal on the night.

The stunning goal in front of 2,456 helped UCSB knock off the first-place Aggies and earn a much-needed three points in the Big West standings. The Gauchos (10-5-1, 3-4) move into a tie for fifth place with Cal Poly with nine points, one point behind fourth-place Cal State Northridge and two behind third-place UC Riverside. The top four teams qualify for the conference tournament.

UC Irvine leads the conference with 16 points and UC Davis (7-7-2, 5-3) is second with 15.

“I had a good touch, I saw him out, and why not hit it? said Pontius about the long-distance shot.

“That’s probably one of the top goals here at Harder Stadium,” UCSB coach Tim Vom Steeg said.”That’s a pretty special goal.”

With the team struggling to score goals, Pontius said it doesn’t matter who on the team gets the job done.

“Right now we’ll take anybody that scores. We need wins, we need points. We still got to do better defensively, but when we get goals, we get wins. We need to keep it going.”

“Tonight was critical game for us and it’s come after a difficult couple of weeks, where we’ve not done enough offensively and we let in some goals defensively I thought were soft. The common denominator after revery game is we lose a player, so we don’t get better. We seem to have to come up with new things.”

The new thing Wednesday was the first start of freshman Marshall Cazares at left fullback. He replaced Matt Glodack, who suffered a head injury in the UC Riverside game.

Cazares played well in a pressure situation.

UCSB's Luis Silva punches a shot past Davis goalie Omar Zeenni to score UCSB's third goal. (Vince Agapito Photos)

“You have to talk him through things, but I thought as the game went on, Marshall played excellent,” said Pontius.

Pontius, who had his hands full defending against the big, physical forwards from UC Davis, proved to a key offensive weapon on this night. He gave the Gauchos a 1-0 lead in the 38th minute by being in the right place at the right time on a free kick by teammate Luis Silva.

Silva drove the ball into the box from about 25 yards and it bounced around before winding up in front of Pontius, who promptly kicked it in from the top of the 6-yard goal box.

UC Davis came close to tying the match three minutes later. Matt Sheldon crossed the ball to Alex Aguiar, who hit a low shot toward the far post. UCSB goalkeeper André Grandt came up big, diving to his right and knocking the ball away.

The Gauchos set up a great scoring chance 10 minutes into the second half, with Sam Garza running free onto a through ball. Zeenni charged out to smother the ball, but the crafty Garza eluded him and a retreating defender and fired a shot at the open net. Unfortunately for him and the Gauchos, the shot went wide of the near post.

Garza would get some payback in the 61st minute. He outran Ramon Martin Del Campo for a long ball, forcing Zeenni to help out his defender. The Aggies goalkeeper booted the ball just beyond the center line, but it went right to Pontius.

The senior immediately sent a looping ball back at the goal and Zeenni had no chance to stop it from going in.

The two-goal lead didn’t last long as UC Davis capitalized on a Gaucho turnover and scored on a counterattack. Matt Wiesenfarth slipped a through pass to Dan Reese on the right side and Reese beat Grandt with a shot to the far post to make it a 2-1 game in the 64th minute.

The Aggies got the ball to Reese again deep in the box, but the Gauchos were able to survive some scary moments and kept the lead.

They sealed the win on terrific combination work by Garza and Silva. Garza held the ball while under some heavy pressure before laying it off for Silva, who buried his shot to the far post.

Vom Steeg used his bench more in the match and the Gauchos were able to maintain high energy till the final whistle.

UCSB travels to Cal State Fullerton on Saturday.

 

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