Gauchos’ championship slips away in double overtime

On a wet and wild night at Anteater Stadium, UC Irvine (16-5-1) defeated UC Santa Barbara (14-6-1), 3-2, in double overtime capturing the 2011 Big West Tournament title.

With the score deadlocked at 2-2 in the second overtime period, Cameron Iwasa took a shot that deflected off of the left post of the Gaucho goal. Miguel Ibarra got the rebound and sent it into the back of the net to seal the victory for the Anteaters in the 105th minute.

This marks the third time in the Big West Tournament’s four-year history that the Gauchos and Anteaters have faced off in the title game. For the third time, UC Irvine captured the crown and the conference’s automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament.

The Anteaters were the first to score in the game as they broke through in the 39th minute with a two-on-three counter attack. Christian Hernandez flicked the ball to himself past a Gaucho defender and charged down the field. He fed the ball wide right to Christopher Santana, who sent a shot to the top of the Gaucho goal past André Grandt’s outstretched hand.

In the second half, UCSB got its opportunity to even the score. Michael Chavez fed the ball to Sam Garza, who was tripped while running into the 18-yard box giving the Gauchos a penalty shot opportunity. Luis Silva scored with a shot to the low right corner of the goal to tie the game in the 64th minute. The goal was his 16th of the season and brought his career count to 27, which is now tied for 10th in the Big West record book.

Just four minutes later, Silva took a free kick from 25 yards out. Dom Sarle redirected the shot into the goal to give UCSB a 2-1 lead.

The Gauchos were not able to hold on to the advantage though. In the 88th minute, Jimmy Turner made a long throw in that was headed in by Enrique Cardenas to knot the game at 2-2.

UCSB – which entered Saturday’s contest with a 4-0-1 record in overtime – really applied the pressure in the first overtime period. Garza was on-fire taking three of his five shots in the game in the first six minutes of the extra stanza. He received a great cross from Josue Madueno in the 96th minute, but his header sailed just high of the cross bar.

Michael Chavez also managed a pair of shots in the waning minutes of the extra period, but the game was still tied at two-all after the first 10 minutes of overtime, setting the stage for Ibarra’s heroics.

The loss snapped the Gauchos’ season-best win streak, which had extended to five games.

Garza led all players with five shots while Christian Hernandez and Ibarra each had four for the Anteaters. Grandt made three saves while Andrew Fontein had four stops.

With a rank of No. 10 in the Rating Percentage Index released on Tuesday, the Gauchos should be a deadlock for an at-large berth and national seed into the 2011 NCAA Tournament. The NCAA will release its 2011 Men’s Soccer Championship bracket at 1:30 p.m. on Monday at If weather permits, UCSB will host its selection show party at Harder Stadium. In the case of inclement weather, the show will be viewed in the Intercollegiate Athletics Building.