A fresh-legged No. 18 UCSB men’s soccer team fell behind 2-0 early to Grand Canyon on Saturday night at Harder Stadium, but the Gauchos battled their way back and were rewarded with two of their best goals of the season as Salvador Aguilar’s 88th minute header sealed a 2-2 draw.
Santa Barbara extends to a four-game unbeaten streak, moving to a record of 4-1-2. The Lopes earned their first tie and are now 3-3-1.
The Gauchos came into Saturday’s match with their longest layoff in between games so far this season and it showed, as they came out looking comfortable with tons of energy and several excellent scoring chances. However, they weren’t able to get on the scoreboard, while the Lopes were fortunate in their early chances.
In the 14th minute, a ball played into the box by Alec LaBarge found the run of Samuel Lossou. UCSB goalkeeper Leroy Zeller was caught in no-man’s land as he came off his line, and Lossou was able to knock a header over the top of Zeller and in to open the scoring, 1-0.
Less than five minutes later, the Lopes caught the Gauchos on the break, and LaBarge took the ball in stride against the run of play before beating Zeller with a left-footed strike to the far post, doubling GCU’s advantage.
Searching to get one back before halftime, the Gauchos were finally able to convert one of their numerous chances in the 39th. Precise passing in midfield, first from Aguilar and next from senior midfielder Thaabit Baartman’s perfect lead pass set up freshman forward Joe Sherbourne in a 1-on-1 situation behind the defense. The Hamburg, Germany native calmly took a great first touch and chipped it past goalkeeper Anthony Munoz to make it a 2-1 game.
The second half saw very little possession from the Lopes as they packed in their defense and invited the Gauchos to keep coming at them. UCSB was knocking at the door for a long time, and though it seemed like another goal was inevitable, the home side was running out of time to find an equalizer.
It would take a moment of pure Gaucho magic to finally bring the teams level. Sophomore forward Alexis Ledoux gained space on the right wing, cutting back to set up a left-footed cross into the box in the 88th. At the end of his pass was Aguilar, who showed once again why he is UCSB’s most dangerous threat in the air as he leaped over the back of his defender and, while completely horizontal, made perfect contact with a near-post header that had no chance of being saved.
It was Aguilar’s third header goal of the season and the second time he has equalized late in the second to give UCSB a draw against a talented opponent.
– Aguilar’s assist on Sherbourne’s goal was the first of his career. With a goal and an assist on the night, he became UCSB’s leader in points (7), totaling three goals and one assist in seven outings.
– Sherbourne’s goal came just eight minutes after he entered the game as a sub. In just his third game as a Gaucho, he became UCSB’s eighth goal scorer in 2022.
– This was the second time this season that UCSB has conceded two goals. Zeller finished with four great saves for the second straight game.
Next Wednesday, Sept. 21, the Gauchos will head to San Luis Obispo to face Blue-Green rival Cal Poly in a non-conference affair at 6:00 p.m. at Alex G. Spanos Stadium.
Michael Jorgenson writes about sports for UCSB.