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SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Goals from freshman attacking midfielder Finn Ballard McBride and junior right winger Rodney Michael helped the UC Santa Barbara men's soccer team emerge victorious in their Big West Conference opener against Sacramento State on Wednesday night at Harder Stadium.
The win was UCSB's (8-2-2) ninth straight unbeaten result, and the team's seventh victory over the stretch.
"I keep saying we're going to hit a team or a game where it's not going to go our way, we haven't hit that yet. The two losses we took this year were under difficult situations, but beside that we've battled through a lot of adversity," remarked 21st-year UCSB head coach Tim Vom Steeg after the match.
Little separated the teams in the first half, though the Gauchos were on the receiving end of a controversial offside decision on a link-up between Ballard McBride and senior striker Will Baynham in the 20th minute. Baynham was making a run into the Hornet 18-yard box and appeared in line with the last defender, but the linesman raised his flag on the play.
Ballard McBride made that point moot when he scored his team-leading fifth goal of the season in the 53rd minute, finishing a pass from Michael into the upper left side of the net on his right foot.
The visitors upped their pace of play after the goal and were afforded some chances late in the match. In the 66th minute, Matt Carnefix tried to pounce on a misplayed ball inside the Gauchos' penalty area, but sophomore goalkeeper Ben Roach was at the near post to make the reaction save.
Junior centerback Hunter Ashworth managed to dribble into space 23 yards out from goal and tried to put the Gauchos up by two in the 69th minute with a powerful strike, but he hit the right post to the relief of the Hornet faithful in attendance.
The second goal finally came in the 88th minute, when senior attacking midfielder and Michael broke on a counterattack towards the Sacramento State goal, with the Frenchman setting up the junior nicely for a left-footed finish into the lower right corner of net.
Ballard McBride has now scored in four of the last five games for the Gauchos, and Michael extended his own streak to six matches in a row in which he's recorded either a goal or an assist. Candia has done the same as Michael in four of the last six games.
The reigning Big West Defensive Player of the Week Roach was tasked with making just one save as he collected his fifth clean sheet of the year.
The Gauchos hit the road on Saturday before returning to the confines of Harder Stadium next week, taking on 24th-ranked Cal State Fullerton at 7 p.m. A video stream will be available on Big West TV, in addition to an audio-only broadcast on UCSBGauchos.com with Arthur Wilkie and Carson Vom Steeg on the call. Links to both are available on the men's soccer schedule page.