Reigning Pac-12 Player of the Year Leo Stolz scored a 38th minute goal and the No. 2 UCLA defense kept twenty-sixth ranked UC Santa Barbara off the board to claim a 1-0 win on Saturday night in front of 5,104 fans at Harder Stadium.
The loss for UCSB (2-3-1) came despite generally outplaying the Bruins (4-1-2) in the first half, as evidenced by dangerous scoring opportunities from senior forward Reed McKenna and freshman midfielder Axel Mendez.
McKenna’s chance came in the tenth minute. Interweaving with sophomore midfielder Ismaila Jome, McKenna received a pass while streaking down the right side of the box. The former Bruin striker then unleashed a low shot to the far post, but UCLA keeper Earl Edwards was up to task with the tough save.
In the 19th minute, Mendez would have the chance of the game for UCSB. After a nice flick from freshman forward Ludwig Ahl, Mendez cranked a left-footed shot off the right goalpost. Clanging off the woodwork, Mendez jumped on his own rebound and sent another shot to the opposite post, but Edwards came all the way across the goalmouth to get a foot on it for the save.
“It was a result that could have gone either way,” said UCSB head coach Tim Vom Steeg. “If either one of Axel’s shot are an inch the other way, or if Stolz doesn’t bury a left-footed half-volley from outside the box, we could be having a different conversation right now.”
Stolz got the game’s only marker in the waning minutes of the first half.
A UCLA defender got the play going by playing a long ball from the halfway line into the box. UCSB senior right back Kevin Garcia-Lopez repelled the pass with a leaping header, but his clearance attempt came to the feet of Stolz just outside the penalty area. The German national then fired to the near post, finding the top corner of the net.
The Gauchos went on to outshoot the Bruins 5-1 after the halftime break, but couldn’t convert an equalizer.
The contentious match featured 40 fouls committed, including a season-high 25 by UCSB.
The Gauchos continue their six-match homestand next week, as San Diego State will be in town for a Friday night showdown before Drake comes to Harder for a Sunday evening contest.