SANTA BARBARA — David Zamora rode the Cal Poly men’s soccer team’s bus back from Santa Barbara with a shove in the face, a gash on the leg and a bruised ego.
The insult to all that injury was another UC Santa Barbara victory in a Big West Conference rivalry the Gauchos have continued to own despite all of the Mustangs’ improvement under fourth-year coach Paul Holocher.
This time, the No. 8 Gauchos (8-2-1, 2-0-0 Big West) held on for a 1-0 victory, and Cal Poly was left to ponder the moral victories, like creating more shots on goal in the second half and watching the referee crack down on the tortilla-throwing Santa Barbara crowd.
Zamora, Josh Didion and Junior Burgos each had two shots for Cal Poly (4-6-0, 2-1-0 Big West), and Mustangs goalkeeper Patrick McLain, the defending Big West Player of the Week, had a career-high seven saves.
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Cal Poly outshot the Gauchos on goal 5-3 in the second half, but the moments of pain and a tentative first half were what did in Cal Poly, which hasn’t won at Harder Stadium in more than 10 years.
UC Santa Barbara outshot the Mustangs 6-0 in the first half, when they got the game-winning goal from Luis Silva.
“Sometimes things don’t go your way,” Holocher said, “but you have to mention when it’s that physical and guys are given warning after warning and no cards, then you have to question that.”
Zamora twice lay hurting in front of the Gauchos goal — once after colliding with defender Michael Boxall and another after a defender appeared to strike his face, an exchange that nearly degenerated into a brawl.
“The defender, he went at me,” Zamora said. “He pushed me and pushed me in the face. Everywhere, that’s a red card, and the referee didn’t call it, just like he didn’t call a lot of fouls. That’s soccer.”
In the end, only Cal Poly defender Patrick Siegler was assessed a yellow card.
UC Santa Barbara leads the series 19-8-2, and Cal Poly has had a particularly tough time at Harder Stadium.
Last season’s scoreless tie was the first time the Mustangs had earned a point in Santa Barbara since Nov. 13, 1998. That was also the date Cal Poly last beat the Gauchos on their own turf, a 4-2 Mustangs win.
“We always know that it’s really hard to play at this stadium,” Zamora said, “but we just have to believe that we can pull out a win anywhere.”
On Wednesday, Silva ended McLain’s 221-minute scoreless streak with 29:07 left before the half.
Silva took a pass from teammate Michael Tetteh near the top of the box, faked right and scored to the left post.
Silva racked up four shots, three on goal, in the first half alone as UCSB outshot Cal Poly 6-0.
The Mustangs had just three close scoring opportunities during that time.
Cal Poly had a chance early on when Zamora found some space for a shot in front of the goal but only watched as the ball caromed off the cross bar into the right post and settled in front of the line.
“I thought it bounced inside,” Zamora said, “but I guess it didn’t. I tried finishing in the corner. That was the only angle I had. Honestly, I thought it was going in. I don’t know what happened, but sometimes, the ball just doesn’t want to go in. That’s what happened today.”