MSoc: Cal Poly’s late magic ties Gauchos

UCSB vs Cal Poly 2015

The Gauchos celebrate their first goal. UCSB and Cal Poly battled at Harder Stadium in front of 14,919 fans. (John Dvorak/Presidio Sports Photos)

Cal Poly freshman forward Jared Pressley knocked in a rebound of a terrific Justin Vom Steeg save to nullify a 2-1 UC Santa Barbara lead with just four seconds left in regulation to force the Gauchos and Mustangs into an eventual 2-2 draw in Saturday night’s battle for first place at Harder Stadium.

After the draw, No. 21 UCSB remained in first place in the Big West North (5-2-1 conference record, 10-5-2 overall), while the No. 20 Mustangs remained a point behind them at 4-1-3 (9-3-4 overall).

The contest, televised by Fox Sports Prime Ticket, drew a crowd of 14,919 fans, the second-largest regular season campus crowd in NCAA history. UCSB-Cal Poly matchups now comprise 13 of the 19 best-attended Division I men’s soccer games since 1980. It was also the largest NCAA crowd since 2010, when UCSB welcomed an NCAA-record 15,896 fans into Harder for a contest against UCLA.

The Gauchos came out energized in Saturday night’s matchup, dominating the run of play against the Mustangs and clogging up the field whenever Cal Poly was on the ball. UCSB’s prolonged time of possession led to a pair of goals, first by sophomore forward Ahinga Selemani in the 11th minute and then junior forward Nick DePuy in the 43rd.

However, the script flipped in the second half, as Cal Poly was able to create some pressure after pushing men forward.

The counter-offensive paid off with 18 minutes left in regulation, as senior midfielder Chase Minter redirected a Jack O’Connor cross from the top of the box into the top right corner of the net.

Despite that goal, UCSB looked to have things locked up, still bottling up play in the midfield.

With less than a minute to go and Cal Poly throwing everything but the kitchen sink at the Gauchos, the Mustangs scored the last-second shocker after a whirlwind of activity took place in the UCSB penalty area following a Kip Colvey cross from the right wing.

At the far post, Mustang senior midfielder Matt LaGrassa won the header, sending in a shot towards Vom Steeg, who swiftly moved laterally to bat the ball away. However, a pair of Mustangs were waiting to pounce on the goalmouth. O’Connor took the first swing at the loose ball, and the Gauchos were unlucky when his whiffed shot rolled right to Pressley a few feet away, who finished into an open net.

Neither team had an abundance of chances in overtime, but Minter’s 96th minute drive off the side-netting was probably the best.

Both of the Gauchos’ first half goals were the result of winning balls in the midfield, playing a pass down a wing, and then finishing off a nicely-placed cross.

Freshman midfielder Geoffrey Acheampong created the chance for UCSB in the 11th, making a run down the left wing, beating his man and then sending in a low cross to the near post for Selemani, whose deft redirection popped past Cal Poly keeper Wade Hamilton.

Then late in the first half, junior midfielder Seo-In Kim played a great ball down the right wing for freshman Cody Gibson, who whipped in a great ball for DePuy in the middle of the 18. DePuy headed the cross inside the far post to increase his conference-leading goal tally to 13. The Gauchos remain an undefeated 15-0-4 when he finds the back of the net.

UCSB finishes up the regular season next week, hosting Sacramento State on Wednesday before traveling to UC Davis on Saturday. The Gauchos will honor the team’s four seniors – Adam Carn-Saferstein, Duncan Backus, Brandon Brockway, and Christian Rodriguez – before Wednesday’s contest.

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