Trailing 1-0 to rival Cal Poly with time running out in the second half, the Gauchos were in need of an equalizer to avoid a humiliating defeat, and Finn Ballard McBride answered the call.
The junior forward collected a short pass from Thaabit Baartman and slipped a shot past the Cal Poly goalkeeper into the back of the net in the 86th minute, sending a crowd of nearly 8,000 into a frenzy. The Gauchos had several opportunities to pull out an improbable win, including five corner kicks in the last two minutes, but could not capitalize.
“The team keeps fighting, and this is our fourth time this year we found a goal with less than five minutes left to not lose the game,” said UCSB coach Tim Vom Steeg. “It’s a credit to the players to battle it out and fight to the very end and give us a chance.”
Cal Poly (1-11-4) hasn’t had many reasons for optimism this season, but the visiting Mustangs can be proud of the defense they played over the first 85 minutes against UCSB. With eight players back protecting the goal for the majority of the game, the Gauchos struggled to find opportunities to attack.
Sign up for Indy Today to receive fresh news from Independent.com, in your inbox, every morning.
“It’s very simple: We just made sure we had more men closer to our goal than they were prepared to throw forward,” said Cal Poly coach Billy McNicol, who took over for the retired Steve Sampson last week. ”It’s not that we didn’t want to score, but they weren’t prepared to take that risk either. They were as frightened of us as we were of them.”
For the majority of the night, it appeared that the game would end in a scoreless tie, but in the 79th minute, Cal Poly sophomore forward Noah Boettiger scored his first collegiate goal to give the Mustangs a stunning 1-0 lead.
“I thought three players ran to the same player, and then I thought we made a mess of it,” said Vom Steeg of his team’s defense on Boettiger’s goal. “Secondly, I’ll look back at it again, but we had a good 30 seconds where somebody else could have gotten back on defense. We didn’t get back.”
Ballard McBride’s goal moved him up to sixth on the UCSB all-time goal scoring list with 29. He has 11 goals so far this season.
UCSB (9-2-5 overall, 4-0-3 Big West) still sits atop the Big West Conference standings and will close out the regular season at UC Irvine and UC Riverside next week.