UCSB may have been overly ambitious to seek the all-time college soccer attendance record, but the 9,749 fans who showed up to watch the Gauchos battle Cal Poly at Harder Stadium may have set a Wednesday night record.
Unfortunately, the crowd did not see any goals unless you count the streaker who poked the ball into the net when he ran out onto the field during the second half.
Skins 1, Shirts 0.
The guys in the shirts, the Gauchos and Mustangs, fought to a 0-0 tie. But there were several near misses during the 90-minute game plus 20 minutes of overtime.
Chris Pontius, UCSB’s leading scorer, took eight shots, including two point-blank headers that were saved by Cal Poly goalie Eric Branagan-Franco. “I should have put the second one away,” said Pontius, whose head was wrapped in a bandage after he took five stitches in the first half. “It was a terrible play by me.”
Cal Poly received a serious opportunity when it was awarded a penalty kick after a hand-ball against the Gauchos with less than 15 minutes remaining in regulation time. But Anton Peterlin sent the kick high over the goal.
Another decision went against the Gauchos a few minutes later when Luis Silva was red-carded for trying to win a ball too forcefully. The Mustangs were unable to capitalize on their man advantage for 31 minutes.
Cal Poly concluded its Big West schedule with a 5-2-3 win-loss-tie record for 18 points. UCSB, 5-2-2, has 17 points with a game remaining Saturday at UC Davis. “If we beat Davis, we’re league champions,” Gaucho Coach Tim Vom Steeg said.
By finishing first or second, UCSB would have a home game next Wednesday in the semifinals of the conference soccer tournament.
An interested spectator Wednesday night was Mark Knight, an SBCC sophomore who has scored 50 goals in two years for the Vaqueros. He was seen talking to Gaucho coaches after the game.
“They need a striker,” Knight said. “I’m their man.”
Knight was impressed by the crowd. Playing club games in his native England, he said, the largest crowd was “maybe 500.” At City College, Knight said, “We’re happy when the women’s team shows up to watch us.”
Besides attracting a sizable turnout, UCSB also set a school record for streakers at a soccer match with two. The previous record was one at the 2004 NCAA playoff match against Virginia Commonwealth, on a night the Gauchos also set a playoff record with 11,215 spectators.
“I don’t see that happening at any other school,” Pontius said of the streaking pair, one of whom was tackled by security forces when he slipped and fell trying to leave the pitch.
Local soccer fans can watch two more significant matches in the next two days. Tonight (Thu., Nov. 6) at 7 p.m., it’s UCSB versus Cal Poly again at Harder Stadium in a Big West women’s tournament semifinal. The Gauchos finished second in the regular season, and Cal Poly took third.
At 7:30 p.m. Friday, SBCC’s men will face Moorpark at La Playa Stadium. The Vaqueros can clinch the Western State Conference title with a win or a tie. Knight had two goals and two assists last Tuesday in their 6-0 rout of Glendale that put them on the brink of the outright championship.