Men’s soccer triumphs over Big West No. 1 seed UC Santa Barbara

The CSUN men’s soccer team celebrates after midfielder John Andersen scores a goal during their match against the UCSB Gauchos at Performance Field in Northridge, Calif., on Saturday Oct. 30, 2021. The Matadors won 2-0.

Randy Acosta, Reporter

CSUN men’s soccer upset Big West Conference top seed and nationally-ranked UC Santa Barbara in a 2-0 victory on Saturday. UCSB came into the contest ranked 30th by

CSUN had a ceremony prior to the game, honoring the seven seniors who played their final game as Matadors with framed jerseys. The seniors were accompanied by their family and loved ones as they received an ovation from the crowd.

The Matadors put pressure on the Gauchos early in the contest. CSUN midfielder Oscar Cardenas and forward Jordan Isibor both had their shot attempts saved by UCSB goalkeeper Leroy Zeller in the first 11 minutes. In the 15th minute, CSUN forward Jamar Ricketts had his shot deflected by a UCSB defender. The ball landed in the box near Cardenas, who also had his shot blocked.

Zeller had his fair share of work for the Gauchos. Toward the end of the first half, Zeller made a punching save and put his body on the line by making a diving save with 17 minutes left in the half. With 10 minutes left in the half, a one-two pass from Ricketts to CSUN forward Khalid Hunter was met by a sliding save from Zeller inside the box.

The first half came to a close in a 0-0 tie with CSUN outshooting UCSB 10-4.

The second half started with some aggression from the Matadors. Cardenas took a shot that just missed its target as it went just left of the left post. The Matador bench stood up in excitement thinking the ball went into the back of the net. CSUN’s goalkeeper Cooper Wenzel had five saves on the night, one in which came 15 minutes into the half after a shot by UCSB forward Diran Bebekian.

“At the beginning of the year we got our schedule and this game was circled,” Wenzel said. “It’s been a long time in the making. I’m super proud of my team, I’m super proud of myself, I think we played phenomenal tonight.”

The go-ahead goal to give the Matadors a 1-0 lead came in the 62nd minute. CSUN midfielder Brendan Hildreth passed it to CSUN midfielder and senior John Andersen who in rhythm, from 25 yards out, put the ball right where it needed to be as it hit the top of the crossbar and in, just out of reach of Zeller.

“To end my competitive career this way, go out happy, it’s a great feeling,” Andersen said. “I’m thankful that we went out winning and also I got to score a goal so that’s pretty amazing.”

UCSB head coach Tim Vom Steeg was livid because play continued even though there was a Gaucho down at the other end of the pitch.

The Gauchos had an opportunity to tie the contest after a shot by UCSB forward Finn Ballard McBride went over the top of the net as he was standing in front of the goal. With 11 minutes left in the half, the Matadors committed a foul a yard away from the penalty box. The shot by UCSB defender Jorge Aldana was blocked by the Matadors’ wall inside the box.

In a final effort from UCSB, they got a corner kick in the 87th minute. As the ball entered the box, it was punched out by Wenzel, who sent it into the direction of CSUN defender Dylan Gonzalez, who won the ball in the open field. With only the goalkeeper to beat, Gonzalez noticed Ricketts to his left, going stride for stride as he passed it to him for an easy tap-in goal.

CSUN won the match 2-0 and beat UCSB for the first time since 2013 and the first time at home since 2009.

“I’m happy they get that last memory of a win and they enjoy themselves,” said head coach Terry Davila. “We played great tonight, I wish we played a little bit better throughout the year, but at times we had moments, we put a whole game together and we won two nothing.”

CSUN finished their season 4-13-1 overall and 3-5-1 in conference.