The CSUN men’s soccer team let a big one get away yesterday at Matador Soccer Field.
The Matadors had a two-goal lead, but it wasn’t enough to give them the win against the defending national champions, ninth-ranked UC Santa Barbara Gauchos. With less than a minute left in the first half, the Gauchos started their comeback, scoring their first goal. After the halftime break, UCSB walked away with two more goals, the win and the Big West Championship.
“The goal at the end of the first half gave them momentum and we had trouble holding them back,” said junior midfielder Devon Deldo.
Deldo scored the first goal of the game in the eighth minute, after junior midfielder Ben Cox cleared the ball to the midfield and Deldo dribbled past Gaucho senior defender Andy Iro and beat goalkeeper Bryant Rueker to the right side of the box.
Senior defender Sean Franklin put CSUN ahead 2-0 in the 22nd minute after Deldo flicked the ball to him and Franklin put it in the back of the net.
But, the Gauchos started their comeback with just 50 seconds left in the first half, when junior midfielder Eric Avila crossed the ball into the box and junior midfielder Chris Pontius headed it past Guppy.
After the break, the Gauchos came back strong, again scoring on a cross by Avila which this time found the head of senior forward Tino Nunez in the fifth minute of the second half.
“It’s like we lost focus for a few minutes and they were able to capitalize,” Franklin said.
The final blow came after the referee called a foul on Franklin in the box and awarded the Gauchos a penalty kick. Pontius fired the ball past junior goalkeeper Kevin Guppy to put the Gauchos ahead for good.
“It takes a lot of guts for a referee to make that call when the score’s tied 2-2,” Guppy said, calling the referee’s call questionable.
Guppy seemed at a loss to explain how the team let it slip away.
“It’s frustrating,” Guppy said. “We started off kickin’ butt. Maybe we thought we were good to go.”
The Matadors fall to 6-7-6, 2-5-4 on the season, while the Gauchos improved to 12-3-3, 9-1-1 and captured their second consecutive Big West Championship.
CSUN plays its last game of the season against UC Irvine at Matador Soccer Field on Friday at 2 p.m.