While lightning was wreaking havoc with high school football games in town Friday night, UCSB soccer star Luis Silva sent three thunderbolts into the goal at Harder Stadium, and the Gauchos welcomed thousands of students to “Soccer Heaven” with a 3-0 victory over the University of San Diego.
The crowd of 13,772 was the second largest to watch a Gaucho soccer game and the fifth highest regular season attendance in NCAA history. The Harder Stadium record of 15,896 at last year’s UCLA-UCSB game is second on the all-time college list.
“It was amazing,” Silva said after he scored his first college hat trick. The senior midfielder said the ninth-ranked Gauchos (5-1-1) were motivated to bounce back from last week’s 3-2 loss at UCLA. “I didn’t have a good game there,” he said. “We don’t lose here. We were anxious to play this game.”
Silva scored twice in the first half, both times on lasers from the right side of the box after assists from Dom Sarle. Silva’s third goal came midway through he second half when David Opoku slid the ball to him on the left flank. He dribbled once and unleashed another precise shot into the far side netting.
“He had a monster game,” UCSB coach Tom Vom Steeg said of Silva, who might have had another goal in the first half when he passed the ball off instead of taking an open shot. “I don’t like to be selfish,” Silva said.
“It was a collective effort,” Vom Steeg said, crediting every Gaucho for creating the ball movement that set up the goals. Machael David and Fifi Baiden controlled the midfield. “Those two are hard to get off the ball,” Vom Steeg said.
The next test for the Gauchos will be at 5 p.m. Sunday, when the Sacramento State Hornets come into Harder Stadium.
Lightning and thunder elsewhere on the South Coast interrupted three prep football games. San Marcos celebrated its first victory in two years on its new home turf, leading Hueneme 24-0 when the game was stopped with three minutes remaining.