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UCLA men’s soccer defeats UC Santa Barbara to advance in NCAA tournament

Redshirt freshman forward Jose Contell yells in celebration during UCLA men’s soccer’s win over UC Santa Barbara on Thursday. Contell scored the equalizer to send the contest to overtime with five minutes left in regulation. (Joseph Jimenez/Daily Bruin)

Men's soccer

UC Santa Barbara1

By Shane Smith

Nov. 19, 2021 3:26 p.m.

The Bruins had been shut out through 85 minutes.

But with their season hanging in the balance, they secured an equalizer before stealing the game in double overtime.

UCLA men’s soccer (11-6-1, 5-4-1 Pac-12) defeated UC Santa Barbara (12-5-4, 6-1-2 Big West) by a score of 2-1 in a double-overtime contest that saw a combined 28 shots, including 13 on goal. With the win, the Bruins secured their first victory in the NCAA tournament since 2016.

“The crowd was incredible, bouncing, singing,” said coach Ryan Jorden. “I thought it was fantastic. Hopefully, we put an entertaining product together that people want to come and see us every single time every year.”

The first shot attempt of the game did not come until the 20th minute, when freshman forward Aaron Edwards drove a shot left of the goal following a run up the right wing.

From that point on, the two teams’ attacks remained balanced in the first half with each side ending at three shots apiece. One of the six total shots was on goal – a low shot from UCSB forward Thaabit Baartman directly to freshman goalkeeper Nate Crockford in the 30th minute.

The Gauchos opened the second half with a miss left by defender Ramses Martinez in the 49th minute before recording the first score of the game five minutes later. Multiple rebounds allowed Martinez to redeem his miss and put UCSB in the lead.

In the 20 minutes following the goal, the Bruin attack had three off-target shot attempts but the final 17 minutes of regulation saw five shots on goal. This included three in quick succession towards the close of the 74th minute, each kept out by Gaucho goalkeeper Leroy Zeller.

It wasn’t until the final five minutes of regulation that the Bruins finally recorded the game-tying goal – a deflected shot from a corner kick off the foot of redshirt freshman forward Jose Contell, who came into the game following an injury to sophomore forward Grayson Doody earlier in the contest.

“We know the corners are very, very important, and we were very focused on those moments,” Contell said. “It was the destiny. It was rolling right in.”

The two teams needed extra periods to determine the victor, with the score evened up at one apiece at the 90-minute mark.

In the first minutes of overtime, each team recorded shots on goal that required diving saves from the opposing goalkeeper, including an outside-the-box, bending shot from junior midfielder Riley Ferch in the 95th minute. The shot required a full-extension save from the 6-foot-5 Zeller. Nevertheless, the first 10-minute overtime period ended with the score still level at 1-1.

The second overtime period, however, lasted just two minutes and 14 seconds.

After Contell rushed along the right wing and swung in a cross, senior forward Kevin Diaz played the deflection off a defender and found the left corner of the net, inching the ball beyond the goal line for the golden goal.

“It’s going around the conference that we don’t really have the toughness, not in regards to physically getting into other teams, but mentally,” said Diaz. “Going behind and coming back, it tells a lot about ourselves.”

(Joseph Jimenez/Daily Bruin)
Senior forward Kevin Diaz (left) and redshirt freshman midfielder Tucker Lepley (right) celebrate with the crowd. Diaz scored the golden goal in double overtime to send his team to the second round of the NCAA tournament. (Joseph Jimenez/Daily Bruin)

With the victory, Jorden recorded his first tournament victory at the helm of the UCLA program since his arrival to Westwood in 2019.

“Our team’s got a lot of backbone to them,” Jorden said. “They love each other, and they got a lot of fight in them – and they showed both.”

The Bruins are now set to travel cross the country to take on No. 7 seed Duke on Sunday. The Blue Devils eliminated Jorden’s Tigers squad in his most recent NCAA tournament run in 2018.

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Shane Smith | Sports contributor
Smith is currently a contributor on the beach volleyball beat. He was previously a contributor on the men's soccer beat.
Smith is currently a contributor on the beach volleyball beat. He was previously a contributor on the men's soccer beat.
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