UC Santa Barbara 1, UNC Greensboro 0 (OT)



SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Top-ranked UC Santa Barbara played 88 minutes a man down to ride senior Matt Bly's foot into its first-ever NCAA Tournament Elite Eight with a 1-0 overtime win over No. 3 UNC Greensboro. The Gaucho entire team defense combined to limit the nation's top-rated offense to just five total shots, only two on goal, for their school-record 14th shutout of the season and improve to 19-2-1. Senior goalkeeper Dan Kennedy was credited with his 12th complete game shutout of the season to set a new UCSB record.

The Gauchos went a man down in the sixth minute when Neil Jones was ejected at the 5:52 in the match for his second yellow card of the match. Both times Jones went after 50-50 balls with the Spartan keeper Jay Benfield. Jones extended his left leg attemptting to trap a cross from Bryan Byrne from the right flank. Benfield, lunging for the ball, came into contact with Jones and fell to the ground. UCSB keeper Dan Kennedy was taken down in similar fashion just two minutes later but a foul was not called.

The first true scoring opportunity came in the 18th minute when Byrne from just inside the penalty box chipped a shot across the frame towards the top left corner, but Benfield elevated and came down with the ball for his first save of the day.

The first half ended without either squad registering a goal, and the Gauchos, playing a man-down wound up posting a 2-1 shot advantage. All in all there were a total of five yellow and one red card handout out in the first stanza.

Eleven minutes into the second half UNCG's Pat Farrell carried the ball up from the back and ripped a shot that went high and to the left for the Spartans' first real scoring opportunity, but had it been on frame Kennedy had a beed on it. The Gauchos responded with a counter attack, earning a free kick just outside the Greensboro box off of a hand ball. Tony Lochhead looped in a hard liner that was deflected wide by an onrushing Spartan. Jonathan Davis picked up the rebound and sent it into the crowd where it found the foot of Matt Bly. Bly ripped a one-timer but was just offside as the UNCG defense began to clear.

Andrew Protoctor came close to putting the the Gauchos up 1-0 in the 70th minute when there was a loose ball free in the box after a Tyler Rosenlund shot but Benfield pushed it wide and kept the score knotted at 0-0. Rosenlund gave UCSB its best scoring chance in 83rd minute when Ivan Becerra beat a couple of Spartan defenders down the left wing and sent in a perfect cross into the box. Rosenlund got a good head on the ball and put it towards the far post, but Benfield made a huge leaping save that rebounded back into the box. Rosenlund pounced on the rebound and tried to push it past Benfield who came up clean this time.

Santa Barbara nearly took the game in the waining seconds of regulation. With 25 second remaining Rosenlund worked his way to the Gauchos' first corner kick of the day, Lochhead charged down the field to take the set piece approaching the final ten seconds. The senior defender's cross made its way to the head of Andy Iro on the back post. Iro lunged forward in the final seconds but Benfield once again came through for UNCG with his seventh save during regulation.

UCSB outshot Greensboro 9-4 in regulation with Kennedy posting one save compared to Benfield's seven. There were no cards handed out in the second half.

Iro's defensive play limited the Spartan's leading scorer, with 19 goals entering the match, Randi Patterson without a shot until the first minute of overtime when Patterson broke through on the left side, but Kennedy was well positioned to make his second and final save on the day.

Kennedy's save proved to be huge as on the ensuing offensive push the Gauchos sealed the deal to advance to their first-ever Elite Eight, playing a man down since the 6th minute. Becerra carried the ball up the right side and had the ball poked away way the Spartan defense. Sophmore defender Greg Curry took the throw finding Becerra near the touch line who carried the ball into the penalty box, beating two defenders. Sensing the defense closing in, Becerra fired off a shot with his left foot that careened of a Greensboro defender and came down near the back post about eight yards out. After losing his defender Bly came charging into the box from his position on the left wing. Bly chested down the loose ball to his feet and ripped a shot past Benfield to score the game-winning goal.

The win in extra time was UCSB's sixth on the season, and their second consecutive in this NCAA Tournament. Santa Barbara is now 6-0-1 in overtime this season, and 2-0-1 in overtime contests playing a man down. And with their 19th overall win of the season the Gauchos set yet another school record, surpassing the mark of 18 set in 2002. UCSB's victory also snapped the Spartans' 13-game home winning streak, handing the hosts their first and final loss at home on the season.

In the final comparison, mind that Santa Barbara was playing one man short, UCSB outshot UNCG 10-5 in the match overall, placing a total of eight shots on frame to the Spartans' two. Greensboro had been averaging 8.1 shots on goal and 2.60 goal per game, but the stellar defense of Iro, Lochhead, Pat Scott and Nate Boyden held Greensboro scoreless to hand them their first shutout of the season. Rosenlund paced Santa Barbara with three shots on goal, while Drew McAthy, Byrne, Iro, Proctor and Bly each registered one.

The Gauchos return home to host Virginia Commonwealth, the 16th seed, who moved past top-seed Wake Forest on penalty kicks last night. The game is preliminarily scheduled for Saturday, December 4th at 7:00 p.m. in Harder Stadium.

--Courtesy UC Santa Barbara