Men’s soccer plays to a scoreless draw against UCSB in emotional Senior Night

CSUN+senior+defender+Alex+Lara+defends+the+ball+from+UCSB%27s+offense+on+Oct.+26.+The+Matadors+successfully+held+off+the+%233+team+to+secure+a+draw.+Photo+credit%3A+Aaron+Aguilera
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Men’s soccer plays to a scoreless draw against UCSB in emotional Senior Night

CSUN senior defender Alex Lara defends the ball from UCSB's offense on Oct. 26. The Matadors successfully held off the #3 team to secure a draw. Photo credit: Aaron Aguilera

CSUN senior defender Alex Lara defends the ball from UCSB's offense on Oct. 26. The Matadors successfully held off the #3 team to secure a draw. Photo credit: Aaron Aguilera

CSUN senior defender Alex Lara defends the ball from UCSB's offense on Oct. 26. The Matadors successfully held off the #3 team to secure a draw. Photo credit: Aaron Aguilera

CSUN senior defender Alex Lara defends the ball from UCSB's offense on Oct. 26. The Matadors successfully held off the #3 team to secure a draw. Photo credit: Aaron Aguilera

Alexander Nino

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The men’s soccer team played to a scoreless tie on Senior Night against the nationally-ranked UC Santa Barbara Gauchos. The draw secured a valuable point for the Matadors (6-7-3, 1-3-2), who became the first team this season to shut out the Gauchos (10-3-4, 3-1-2).

Head coach Terry Davila expressed pride in his squad’s defensive performance.

“(UCSB) is the number one scoring team in our conference,” Davila said. “For us to shut them out says a lot about our goalkeeping, our team defense and our back line.”

CSUN stood in a three-way tie for the final spot in the Big West tournament prior to Saturday’s game, and a win would have done wonders for the Matadors’ odds at advancing. Despite this, CSUN still controls their own fate heading into the final conference match next Saturday against UC Irvine.

“Every point in the Big West is valuable,” Davila said. “It’s hard to secure them so we’ll take any point we can get.”

CSUN dominated possession in the early going, as Santa Barbara relied on their tall defenders to snuff out any through balls or crosses and initiate counters. Matador defenders returned the favor by frustrating the Gauchos attack, whose aggressive passes were constantly intercepted.

Junior forward Daniel Trejo found several openings on counter attacks in the 23rd and 26th minutes leading to consecutive shots on target. In addition to being the first true offensive attack for either side, it also foreshadowed Trejo’s role as a thorn in the Gauchos’ side as he registered more shots on goal (2) than the entire UCSB squad (0) in the first half.

An injury to Gaucho junior Ameyawu Muntari in the 34th minute calmed their offense down, as they gained control of possession and did not relinquish it through the end of the half.

The offensive momentum was carried through the break, and Gaucho senior Will Baynham took advantage of a Matador defensive lapse on a breakaway with only redshirt freshman keeper David Preys to beat. The freshman was up to the challenge, as he sprawled out to deflect the attempt away, preserving the scoreless tie.

The defensive showdown would continue until the 80th minute when Preys went down grabbing his hamstring, necessitating redshirt junior Paul Lewis to lock down the goal for the remainder of the contest.

Lewis began the year as the primary starter until his duties were usurped by Preys. Both individuals’ positive attitudes through the change did not go unnoticed by Davila.

“They’re both excellent keepers,” Davila said. “It’s a testament to both of them always staying ready and always competing. They’ve been very good to each other the whole year at pushing one another. What I love about them is that they pull for each other, and they’re very happy when the other one does well.”

Lewis would make an immediate impact with a clutch breakaway save as the final seconds of the second half ticked away. Lewis and Preys each recorded two saves in the contest, with three of them driving the game to overtime.

“It’s great to see how much depth we have and for people to come in and make big saves,” senior defender Alex Lara said. “It’s not an easy thing to do to keep a shutout against UC Santa Barbara and I’m really proud of the way we fought.”

Counter attacks defined the first overtime period, and back-to-back close calls by Baynham and Matador sophomore Wolfgang Prentice with minutes remaining were sent a few feet wide of the goal. They would signify the only prime scoring opportunities in the two overtime periods as the teams drew on an emotional Senior Night.

Lara emphasized the added meaning of this game for him on a personal level.

“Speaking for myself, there was a lot of emotion behind this game,” he said. “I’ve been playing here for a while, but the boys came out today and really fought so I’m proud of that.”

While the seniors set their focus on the field, Davila’s main source of pride was their leadership off of it.

“We have the highest GPA out of all the men’s sports in the school,” said Davila. “The biggest impact (the seniors) have is in the classroom. They’re all outstanding students and they’re all graduating either in fall or spring. (Graduate student Ehi Isibor and redshirt senior Andre Deas) are in the master’s program, so we’re very proud of these kids. We’re very proud of where they’re standing and what they’re going to do with the next part of their life.”

Before the seniors reach graduation, they have business to attend to on Nov. 2 when they hope to punch their ticket to the Big West tournament against the UC Irvine Anteaters.