ST. LOUIS -- UC-Santa Barbara coach Tim Vom Steeg started
thinking about next year after the Gauchos got off to a slow start
this season. His team had other ideas.
Nick Perera had a goal and an assist and unseeded UC-Santa
Barbara beat UCLA 2-1 Sunday to win the school's first soccer title -- second national
title overall -- and finish off a surprising postseason run.
The Gauchos began the season 7-6 and dropped some games that Vom
Steeg thought his team should have won. He told his players to
prepare for major changes if the season did not turn around
immediately and the Gauchos (17-7-1) responded by losing just one
of their final 12 games.
"I don't exaggerate," Vom Steeg said. "We were really done
with this group. We thought this group wouldn't have what it takes
to win a league championship, much less win a league playoff game,
much less win a national championship."
The title came less than a day after UC-Santa Barbara played 110
scoreless minutes in its semifinal victory over Wake Forest. The
Gauchos, who won 4-3 in penalty kicks to advance to the
championship game, showed no signs of fatigue against eighth-seeded
UCLA, which won at UC-Santa Barbara 3-1 on Oct. 10.
Perera banged the Gauchos' first shot off the left post and into
the UCLA goal to make it 1-0 less than 3 minutes into the game.
Tyler Rosenlund carried the ball deep into the box before passing
it back to an unmarked Perera, who had plenty of time to settle it
and take the shot.
"I was standing right in the middle of the goal," Perera said.
"So, it would have probably been harder to miss than it would have
been to score."
The Gauchos took a 2-0 lead in the second half. Perera collected
a pass in the UCLA box from Bryan Byrne and flicked the ball to an
open Eric Avila, who slid it into the bottom left corner of the
The Bruins (14-6-4) tried to rally in the final 15 minutes.
Jason Leopoldo received a ball deep into the Gauchos' box in
traffic and slipped it into the net to make it 2-1 with 11:04 left.
Less than 2 minutes after the goal, UC-Santa Barbara goalie Kyle
Reynish had to dive to his right to tip aside a low shot from Mike
Zaher. Defender Alfonso Motagalvan also knocked a ball headed into
the goal aside to secure the victory.
The win gave UC-Santa Barbara its first national title since the
school won the men's water polo championship in 1979.
"I know UCLA was going for their 100th national championship,"
Vom Steeg said. "For us this is a big deal. This is a big deal for
our town. It's a big deal for our university."
UC-Santa Barbara finished with 15 shots, but only six on goal.
UCLA had six on goal in its 11 attempts. Bruins coach Jorge Salcedo
said not only was his team overconfident coming into the game
because of its earlier victory over the Gauchos but it also played
with little passion until the final 15 minutes.
"Today, was a bad day for us," he said. "We didn't play well.
It was definitely bad timing to have a poor performance."
The two Southern California teams played four days after the
first winter storm hit the St. Louis area bringing with it heavy
snow, ice and freezing temperatures and forcing the postponement of
the semifinals. The gametime temperature for the championship was