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Cal-Santa Barbara Soccer Semifinal

Since this game will be televised on ESPN2 tomorrow, if you don't want to know the result, stop reading now, and skip to the next article.
The day was a mixed day. The Home Depot Center, the site of the semifinals, was not very well organized. We arrived 30 minutes before the first game, with plans to pick up our tickets at Will-Call, only to find all the Will-Call windows were closed, and only three ticket windows were open. (Two of these windows were occupied with people complaining about lost tickets.) We didn't get our tickets until less than ten minutes before the kickoff.

The Home Depot Center itself is a beautiful stadium dedicated solely to soccer. It has very good sight-lines. The concession options were a bit weak, but there may have been more options for Galaxy games. The Duke Club in Los Angeles had arranged for an event suite where there was a cash bar and a location for Duke fans to gather. Before the game we were joined by Coach Rennie, and his family stayed in the suite through the game. Many former Duke players also were in attendance, as well as local alumni.

Indiana won the first game with 48 seconds left in the second overtime 3-2, which delayed the start of the Duke game.

The game itself was a game of two halves; the first half was definitely competitive, although Duke did not get the breaks. California-Santa Barbara scored in the second minute of the game on their only corner kick of the first half. Replays looked like an own-goal, although it was awarded to a UCSB player. After that setback, Duke attacked, and looked quite effective. There was a clear contract between the teams. Duke was quicker, and seemed more skillful, whereas UCSB was bigger and stronger. The contrasts made for an interesting game. Duke applied almost constant pressure, but late in the first half, UCSB scored a second goal on a counter-attack. At halftime, despite the score, we felt we had a real chance to turn the tables.

The second half started with Duke's strongest attack, forcing yet another UCSB save, and nearly scoring a goal on the rebound. But after that, things went downhill. Duke was forced to keep pushing forward and that exposed the defense to counter-attack. UCSB was able to quickly exploit these gaps in the Duke defense, and in a nine minute period, added three goals to put the game out of reach. The only remaining question was whether Duke could tally a consolation goal, and hold off UCSB's efforts for six. The latter goal was met, but no Charltonesque comeback was in the cards. The final score was UCSB 5 Duke 0, equalling the worst semifinal defeat in the NCAA Tournament.

One thing to keep in mind, though. This is a young Duke team, with the key players coming back next season, and the last time a Duke men's team suffered such a defeat in the Final Four, they came back the next year to win the title.