Nic Ryan’s heroics strike again for Gauchos

Senior Nic Ryan once again provided the heroics on Friday night as the midfielder led No. 4 UCSB to a 2-1 double overtime victory over visiting UC Irvine at Meredith Field at Harder Stadium.

UCSB's Nic Ryan

UCSB senior Nic Ryan scored twice on Friday, including the game-winner in overtime to keep the Gauchos undefeated after 11 matches.

Ryan scored both of the Gauchos’ goals in the win, including the golden goal with just 24 seconds to go in the second overtime period to keep UCSB undefeated. The victory improves the UCSB record to 8-0-3 overall and 2-0-1 in Big West Conference play. The defending league champion, UC Irvine, falls to 3-8-1 and 0-3-0 in league games.

A season-best crowd of 7,822 fans ? which is the biggest crowd nationally this season ? turned out to watch the nearly 110 minute nail biter.

The Anteaters gained the early advantage when Lester Hayes III found the back of the net for the third time this season in the 18th minute. During an Irvine fast break, Hayes streaked down the left side of the field and then cut in towards the 18-yard box before firing a shot to the near post. The shot was Irvine’s first of the game.

Despite out-shooting the Anteaters, 8-4, in the first stanza and placing four of those shots on-frame, the Gauchos still trailed at halftime.

The Irvine lead did not last long past the break. Just over three minutes into the second half, senior Dion Acoff quickly tapped the ball towards his left to Ryan, who lofted it from the top left corner of the 18-yard box towards the top far corner of the Anteater goal for the equalizer.

Despite a couple great opportunities to take the lead in regulation ? including a two-on-three fast break play during which Javier Castro got a shot off from 18-yards out ? the Gauchos and Anteaters remained deadlock after 90 minutes forcing UCSB to go into overtime for the second consecutive game.

In the first of the two 10-minute overtime periods, UCI had a couple great chances. The first came in the 93rd minute when Cameron Iwasa got a wide open look and sent a shot towards the far post from the left side of the field. The ball rolled just wide of the goal to preserve the tie. In the 99th minute, Iwasa took another stab at it, this time passing the ball to Thom Moreira, whose back flick shot was stopped by Gaucho goalkeeper Austin Mansker.

UCSB was able to regain the momentum in the second overtime period. In the 106th minute, freshman Charlie Miller collided with the Irvine goalkeeper during a scurry in the box leaving the Anteater goal wide open. Acoff was able to rebound the ball during the play and shot it from the left side of the six-yard box, but his shot was just a tad off and hit the side of the net.

With 4:26 to go in the period, Irvine had another great attempt at the game-winner when Marco Franco got a shot off from 18-yards out straightaway. Mansker once again came up big, punching the ball up and out of harms way for his third save of the evening.

Just as the clock was winding down on the game and it looked like the Gauchos would have to settle for their fourth tie of the season, Ryan came through for UCSB. The senior took a corner kick that was deflected out of the box. He ran up the left sideline, collected the ball and crossed it into the 18-yard box. The ball took a hop, just missing Peter McGlynn’s outstretched foot, and then a second hop past diving Irvine goalkeeper Michael Breslin, finding the far side of the Anteater goal.

The goal brought Ryan’s team-leading total to six and marked his fourth game-winning strike of the year. He led all players in the match with five shots, including three on-frame.

UCSB out-shot the Anteaters, 21-13, during the match and had an 8-4 edge in shots on-goal. It also led the corner kick battle, 9-6.

The win marks the Gauchos’ first since 2009 over the Anteaters. Friday’s match was the fourth of the last seven pairings between the teams that extended into double overtime. This victory also marked UCSB’s first in overtime this year; its previous three overtime games ended in ties.

UCSB is currently in second place in the Big West standings with seven points, trailing league-leader Sacramento State ? which has opened conference play with a flawless 3-0 record ? by two points. The Gauchos will continue league play on Sunday at 5 p.m. against Cal State Northridge (8-4-0, 2-1-0).