John Zant: Big kicks, hometown slap shots, and hoop dreams

UCSB Ice Hockey

Among the first to try out the new Ice in Paradise facility in Goleta was UCSB’s hockey team, which lost 5-3 to Cal Lutheran in the match pictured above. They also lost 7-6 to Chapman but are happy to not have to play in Oxnard anymore. (John Dvorak/Presidio Sports Photos)

Here are some things you don’t see every day, and they are happening in our town:

GIRL GONE STRONG: In the two games since she was crowned (with a helmet) as placekicker for the Santa Barbara High varsity football team, Alea Hyatt has made all six of her PAT (point after touchdown) kicks and three field goals, including a 36-yarder that sparked the Dons to a 27-20 victory over Pacifica. The field goals made history. Sue Skenderian, a soccer star like Hyatt, kicked three PATs for the Dons in 1992. Sarah Harbison made her only PAT attempt for San Marcos in 1999 and duplicated the feat in the Dons-Royals alumni game in 2010, scoring the last point of a 10-10 tie. Hyatt will be back in action Friday night, October 16, when Santa Barbara plays host to Dos Pueblos at Peabody Stadium.

John Zant's column appears each week in the Santa Barbara Independent.

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John Zant’s column appears
each week in the
Santa Barbara Independent

Santa-Barbara-Independent

NICK’S KNACK: It’s no secret now that former defender Nick DePuy has become a tremendous striker for the UCSB men’s soccer team. But even with opponents watching out for him, the 6’4” junior continues to score goals at critical times. He is the nation’s second-leading scorer with 12 goals, and seven of them have been game winners. Last week, DePuy broke a scoreless deadlock against UC Riverside in the second half by capturing a soft clearance and taking it up the left side, finishing with a laser shot to the far post. Freshman sensation Geoffrey Acheampong tacked on another goal as UCSB won, 2-0. Two nights later, in overtime against Cal State Fullerton, DePuy headed in a cross from Acheampong to give the Gauchos a 2-1 victory. DePuy has scored 21 goals since his debut as a forward last year, and UCSB is undefeated (15-0-3) in matches where he’s scored. The Gauchos, on the road this week, will start a three-game home stand Tuesday, October 21, against UC Davis.

ICE HOCKEY: It was really cool — temperature-wise and sports-wise — to see a real hockey game inside the brand-new Ice in Paradise building last Saturday. UCSB’s hockey team, which formerly had immigrant status in Oxnard, played Cal Lutheran before a crowd that packed the gallery overlooking the full-sized rink. “It’s a gorgeous rink,” said Alex Wood-Doughty, who scored the first goal for the Gauchos. “The best thing is that it’s right across the street [from the university]. Even an awful rink would be better than having to leave town to play and practice.” UCSB’s team is a student-supported organization with a roster of 20 players. “Our dues are $1,500,” said Wood-Doughty, a Wisconsin native working on a PhD in economics. The Gauchos had just one day of practice on their new home ice before their opener, a 7-6 loss in overtime to Chapman on Friday night. Cal Lutheran also skated past them, 5-3. But UCSB will have several more games against those teams in a season that goes into February. Next up: UC San Diego at 10 p.m. Friday. The Greater Santa Barbara Royals, a high school team, will play their first Ice in Paradise game at 4:45 p.m. Saturday against the Kern County Knights.

Here are some things to look for when the college basketball season opens in a few weeks:

PAC-12 INVASION: A pair of teams from the Pac-12 Conference will visit UCSB this season: Oregon State on November 21 and USC on December 3. “I’m appreciative,” Gaucho coach Bob Williams said. “You don’t find very many Pac-12 teams willing to play mid-majors on the road.” Only one such team has taken up the Thunderdome challenge in the past decade: the Cal Bears, who lost to the Gauchos in December of 2013. UCSB has a return match at Cal on November 16 and will also travel to Arizona State (Nov. 29), and Washington (Dec. 28). Why are they so willing to play the Gauchos? Williams figured, “They’re looking at the void,” referring to the graduation of Big Al Williams, UCSB’s powerful forward who was a monster in big games and is now putting up big numbers in China.

SAM’S READY TO GO: To fill the big void, the Gauchos have 6’10” senior Sam Beeler. Coach Williams said Beeler is ready to cut loose. “That big dog [Al Williams] is out of the yard now, and Sam’s free to run,” he explained. “Sam’s going to any water bowl he wants; he’s eating out of whatever bowl he wants. Sam’s having fun in the backyard now because there’s not Al to knock him around.”

DANCING INTO THE SECOND ROUND: Williams is entering his 18th season as Gaucho coach. He’s motivated to stick around by “one glaring thing in my dream list that we have not accomplished.” That’s a victory in an NCAA tournament game. Williams has taken the Gauchos to the Big Dance three times. They were ousted in the first round by Arizona, Ohio State, and Florida. Jerry Pimm is the only UCSB coach to win a men’s Division 1 tournament game, over Houston in 1990, and his team had a 25th anniversary reunion this year. Told he would have to come back in 2041 if the Gauchos were to have a 2016 tournament victory to celebrate, Williams said, “I’ll be there. I’ll only be 87.”

NEW ERA: Hired to coach the Gaucho women’s team in the wake of a dismal 2-27 season, Bonnie Henrickson said she expects to put an improved product on the floor. To address their frequent bad spells of shooting, Henrickson had the players each take 20,000 shots in a six-week span during the summer. That amounted to 556 shots a day (six days a week). Fans will see some new rules in women’s basketball, including 10-minute quarters (instead of 20-minute halves) and the NBA-style advancement of the ball to the frontcourt after time-outs in the last minute of the fourth quarter.

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