Another big crowd watched UCSB take its first small step in the 2007 NCAA Men’s Soccer Championship on Wednesday night. A brilliant goal by Jon Curry and a defense that never broke advanced the Gauchos to the Sweet 16, as they blanked the Washington Huskies 1-0 before 9,641 festive fans at Harder Stadium.
Seeded only 12th despite winning the national title last year, the Gauchos will play their next match on Sunday, at 10 a.m. Pacific time, in Columbus, Ohio, against fifth-seeded Ohio State. The Buckeyes, unbeaten in their last 12 games, defeated Louisville 1-0 in their second round match.
The top 16 teams received byes in the first round last weekend, and one of the Gauchos’ concerns was shaking off the rust of an 11-day layoff since their last game. Just ask the Colorado Rockies if it’s helpful to be out of competition for more than a week. Six of the NCAA’s seeded teams went down to defeat Wednesday, including No. 1 Boston College and No. 4 Indiana.
Indiana’s loss to Bradley on penalty kicks was significant. It means UCSB would host an Elite Eight match against either 13th-seeded Maryland or Bradley on the weekend of December 7-9 if it beats Ohio State. The Gauchos are 8-0 in NCAA playoff matches at Harder Stadium.
UCSB’s attack was ineffective for much of the Washington game, but fortunately Curry was on the ball just 10 minutes into the match. A clearance by the Huskies landed at Curry’s feet, and the sophomore midfielder hammered a 25-yard shot into the far corner of the net.
The Gauchos’ defense was kept busy, as Washington persistently sought the equalizer. But the Huskies lacked a finishing touch against a back line anchored by seniors Andy Iro and Greg Curry, Jon’s brother. Freshman goalkeeper Bryant Rueckner picked off all the shots that came his way.
Coach Tim Vom Steeg‘s Gauchos improved their record to 13-3-4 (wins, losses, ties). They were 13-7-1 at this stage of last year’s tournament, which they won.