Last Friday night, after UCSB peppered the College of Charleston with 21 shots in a 3-1 soccer victory, Gaucho coach Tim Vom Steeg said, “I’m really excited about Monday” — when UCSB would face UCLA in Westwood, where the Gauchos had never beaten the Bruins.
Vom Steeg’s excitement was officially justified under the lights at Drake Stadium. In a brilliant effort, the Gauchos dismantled UCLA, the team ranked No. 1 in the preseason and the national runner-up last year, by a 4-2 score. It was UCSB’s fifth win in 42 matches against the Bruins, and on a sweetness scale, it was topped only by the Gauchos’ 2-1 triumph in the 2006 NCAA Final at St. Louis.
It was a come-from-behind effort. For the first time this season, the Gauchos (4-2-1) did not score the first goal of a match. But that did not do them any good in their two defeats, and it’s been said that the most important goal is the second one, which either expands a lead or shifts the momentum. UCSB got that goal when 6’4” junior striker Nick DePuy slammed in a header off a crackling cross by freshman Geoffrey Acheampong.
The 1-1 halftime deadlock became a 4-1 UCSB lead midway through the second half after a string of gems by the Gauchos: a left-footed rocket by sophomore Ahinga Selemani as he dribbled across the top of the box; another header by DePuy, his sixth goal of the season, off a corner kick; and a solid finish by junior Josue España in a two-on-one break with DePuy, who drew the goalkeeper out and slid the ball to España’s feet.
Neither UCLA score — an early penalty kick and a close-range shot off a ball the defense failed to clear in the 79th minute — rivaled UCSB’s four on an artistic scale. The Bruins had not allowed that many goals in a regular-season game since 2010.
The resounding victory should earn the Gauchos a nice reception from newly arrived students when they play their next two matches at Harder Stadium: Friday night against the Akron Zips, the 2010 national champions, and Sunday evening against the University of San Diego.
CROSS-COUNTRY: There is not a more down-to-earth sport than cross-country. The athletes do their thing on real grass and dirt, and all they need to wear are the lightest of uniforms and running shoes. The fundamentals of performance boil down to two things: physical stamina and mental toughness.
The popularity and the quality of cross-country running in the area was evident last week when Dos Pueblos High hosted four other schools in the season’s first Channel League meet. Colorful legions of young athletes spilled into the wilds adjacent to the stadium during each three-mile race. The varsity competitions produced some outstanding efforts.
Dos Pueblos junior Christina Rice won the girls’ race on her home course in 18 minutes, 12 seconds. Eight seconds behind her was Ventura sophomore Sofia Ramos, and San Marcos junior Erica Schroeder was another 2.81 seconds back.
Quite a rivalry is simmering between Rice and Schroeder, who formerly were active schoolmates at Kellogg Elementary. Schroeder was dominant last year, winning the championship at the league finals, while Rice finished third. A mile into last week’s race, they could hear each other breathing, but Rice pulled away in the second mile and held her position to the finish.
“I was expecting a little more out of this race,” said Schroeder, who made a name for herself by winning the state track championship in the 800-meter run last June. “The second mile was pretty hard. A lot of other girls are looking strong. It’s the first race. There are more to come. I have to look at the big picture.”
The petite Rice is looking at a pretty big picture herself. A member of the DP Engineering Academy, she’d like to compete for a Division 3 college with strong academics. “MIT is my dream,” she said.
Ramos was the first of three Ventura girls to finish in the top five. The Cougars ran away with top team honors, as did the Ventura boys, the defending State Division 2 champions. They return their leading runner, senior Garrett Reynolds, and he blazed to victory by 15 seconds at Dos Pueblos in 15:12. “We have a great team atmosphere,” Reynolds said. “It’s a tight group.” Besides the Ventura tradition, he has a family thing going for him. His father, Eric Reynolds, was a national cross-country champion at Camarillo High in 1982 and also ran a spectacular 8:44 two-mile on the track.
BEACH TO BEACH: Rusty Snow, director of the Veterans Day Santa Barbara Marathon and Half on November 7, is excited about the new course for the half-marathon. It will start at UCSB’s University Plaza and proceed under Henley Gate at the entrance to the campus. Inhaling the ocean air from Goleta Beach, the runners will take over the northbound lanes of State Route 217 (Ward Memorial Boulevard) and exit at Hollister Avenue. The 13.1-mile course will lead them to the finish line at Leadbetter Beach. The full marathon, in its seventh year, will also finish at Leadbetter after starting at Dos Pueblos High.
Moninda Marube, the defending champion of the half and two-time winner of the marathon, abandoned his plans to run across the country from Auburn, Maine, to Santa Barbara in a demonstration against human trafficking. His support crew was not up to the task. Moninda says he is running 30 miles a day, six days a week, and plans to go for another victory in Santa Barbara in November.
STILL ROWING: The latest dispatches from a rowboat named Doris show that she is steadily making her way south between Hawai‘i and Western Samoa, her next destination. Four British women, rowing around the clock, a pair at a time, shoved off from Santa Barbara four months ago in their ambitious attempt to row across the Pacific to Cairns, Australia. They reached a profound point in their journey at 3:30 a.m. Monday when they crossed the equator. Adverse currents and winds slowed their progress, and team leader Laura Penhaul lamented that they’ll miss supporting England in the Rugby World Cup now underway in the U.K.