BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — One misstep by Indiana defender Jordan Kleyn allowed the UCSB men’s soccer team to take a giant step in the direction of what it hopes will be a second national championship.
On a day mixed with light rain and periods of light snow, the heavy burden of clearing a ball from the top of the Hoosiers’ 18-yard box came for Kleyn in the second overtime of Sunday’s scoreless third-round NCAA Tournament match at Bill Armstrong Stadium.
When the ball arrived at Kleyn’s right foot, it skipped over his boot. As he retreated toward his own goal, he slipped, which allowed Gaucho senior forward Will Baynham to collect the ball and rip a right-footed blast into the upper-right corner of the goal to give UCSB a stunning 1-0 victory.
The Gauchos advanced to the program’s first quarterfinal appearance since 2006 — when UCSB won its only national championship — and ended Indiana’s 38-match home unbeaten streak that dated back to 2016. That year, the Hoosiers also lost in the Round of 16 to Virginia Tech before going on the nation’s longest home unbeaten streak.
When Baynham’s blast ripped the back of the net, the Gaucho bench stormed onto the field to ignite an on-field celebration that lasted for several minutes. Baynham was swarmed by his players in a scrum that took all of them toward the Hoosiers’ bench.
“It was an amazing feeling,” Baynham said. “I thought it was tough playing in these conditions, but both teams did well. Luckily, the ball fell to my foot, and I was very happy with that moment.”
So too was UCSB coach Tim Vom Steeg, who watched his team play an excellent defensive match that included an enormous left-handed save by goalkeeper Ben Roach in the second half.
“I couldn’t be prouder of our effort today,” Vom Steeg said. “Obviously, it’s a tough place to bring a California team out to, and it’s obviously a tough team to play on the road.
“There’s a reason why this team hasn’t lost in three-plus years (at home).”
Vom Steeg admitted that he felt his team was losing some of its energy as the match went into a second 10-minute overtime period.
Something needed to happen for the Gauchos to avoid penalty kicks to decide the match. It did, thanks to their Australian striker, who took over the team lead in goals with 10.
“We stayed after it, and I thought the thing that happened was we started getting tired,” Vom Steeg said. “We put in a lot of work in the first half and we needed somebody to come up with a big play, and we got it.
“I don’t know how else to really quantify it. I mean, it’s a real challenge to come to a place like Indiana. It’s a real challenge to come away with a win, so there’s no way to really put it into words how proud I am of these guys.”
Vom Steeg improved to 3-5 in NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 matches.
The last time the Gauchos were in Indiana in 2008, they won that regular-season match, 2-1. Vom Steeg described Sunday’s result as one of the biggest victories in his 21-year UCSB coaching career.
It was also near the top for the Gaucho players.
Vom Steeg was asked about his strategy going into the second overtime session.
“The message was if we get ( a goal) then great, if not, and this thing has to go to penalty kicks, then we’ll take it to penalty kicks,” he said. … “The big key for us was just not to give anything up on defense.”
Overtime and an upset victory of the No. 6-ranked Hoosiers (15-3-4) would not have even been possible for UCSB (15-4-4) had it not been for Roach’s incredible moment in the 62nd minute. With Indiana breaking in on a dangerous attack, freshman midfielder Aiden Morris hit a 12-yard shot from the left that Roach didn’t pick up right away. As the ball headed toward the back of the net, the former Santa Barbara High All-American goalkeeper reached out with his left hand to stop the shot at the very last second. It was the Hoosiers’ best chance of their 12 shots they attempted in the match.
“I saw the ball pretty late,” Roach said. “I think it went through someone’s legs, or something, and then I saw it late. Fortunately, I got a good push off, didn’t slip, and got a solid hand to it.
“It fell right in front of me and didn’t rebound to anyone else.”
Indiana coach Todd Yeagley struggled in shock with his opening remarks in the postgame press conference.
“Congratulations to Santa Barbara, they’re a good team,” he said to open his comments. “They came in here and played really hard. They played with a lot of passion, a lot of fight, and gave us a lot to deal with, certainly in that first half.
“It’s tough. It’s a real gutted locker room because they felt they had so much more in them. It’s going to take a while for the guys to understand what they did (this season). I just told them I was proud of them.”
UCSB, which attempted six shots with two on frame, will play its quarterfinal match at Wake Forest on Saturday at 2 p.m. (PST). The Demon Deacons advanced with a 3-1 win over Michigan on Sunday night.