MSoc: DePuy notches two more in Gaucho win

Junior forward Nick DePuy passed USC Upstate’s Gordon Wild for the national lead in goals by notching his third brace of the season against Sacramento State on Wednesday night, picking up scores number 14 and 15 as UC Santa Barbara topped the Hornets 2-1 to clinch a spot in the upcoming Big West Tournament.

With the result, No. 17 UCSB improved to 11-5-2 on the year with a 6-2-1 mark in conference play. The Gauchos secured at least a share of their third consecutive Big West North Division Championship and they are guaranteed to play their first tournament game at home. UCSB can clinch the North Division outright with a win or draw in the regular season finale at UC Davis on Saturday.

Sacramento State dropped to 6-9-2 (3-5-1) on the season but can still sneak into the Big West Tourney with a win against Cal Poly on Saturday.

“I was very pleased with our performance tonight,” said UCSB head coach Tim Vom Steeg. “As a team, we really put in a good effort, especially considering we were coming off an emotionally disappointing draw against Cal Poly.”

Freshman midfielder Geoffrey Acheampong assisted on both of DePuy’s markers to give him 10 assists on the season, extending his conference lead. He is the first Gaucho to hit double digits in assists since Luis Silva and Dom Sarle both accomplished the feat in 2011.

DePuy put the Gauchos ahead early with the team’s fastest goal to open a game so far this season, finishing off a set piece at the 1:44 mark in the first half. Acheampong started the play with a dead-ball service from the left side, finding an unmarked Duncan Backus at the far post. Backus headed back across goal, where DePuy re-directed the ball inside the post.

He then headed in his second goal of the game in the 53rd minute, giving him his NCAA-leading eighth game-winning goal of the season. Acheampong was once again the catalyst on the play, picking out DePuy at the far post from the right side.

The Gauchos are now an undefeated 16-0-4 all-time when DePuy finds the back of the net.

Sophomore forward Ahinga Selemani was also a thorn in the side of the Hornets defense, buzzing around the offensive third and creating a pair of dangerous scoring opportunities, including a 31st minute drive that necessitated a strong save from Sac St. keeper James Del Curto.

After an offensively inept first half, the Hornets made the Gauchos sweat a little bit in the second half. Just 17 seconds after DePuy’s second goal, Sacramento State’s Isaac Flores pounced on a loose ball in the box to cut UCSB’s lead in half.

They continued to push forward, coming less than 12 inches away from an equalizer in the 84th as John Quintanilla sent a header just over the bar after a somersault long throw-in. The Hornets had prolonged possession in the final third as time was winding down, but never got a dangerous look at the net from the run of play. Christian Guzman’s last-gasp shot that sailed over the bar with 59 seconds left spelled the end of the night for the visitors.

UCSB will wrap up the regular season on Saturday afternoon at UC Davis, with kickoff scheduled for 2:00 p.m. Needing just one point out of that game to clinch the division title outright, the Gauchos will learn their postseason fate immediately following that contest.