By Nicole Ramsey
It was a suspenseful game for players, coaches and all who attended the UC Santa Cruz men’s soccer match on Saturday at the East Lower Field. The Slugs defeated their Northern California rivals, CSU East Bay, 3-1, bringing their record to 12-3 overall.
“It always gets pretty chippy with East Bay,” said senior and team captain Jeremy Abrams. “So it’s expected that both teams will play hard.”
The game had its fair share of physical altercations between players, resulting in nearly a dozen yellow cards.
“I felt a little nervous when a couple of our players got into it with their players,” said senior goalkeeper Jared Wheeler. “We have a really big game coming up and we can’t afford to have anybody out for that.”
Senior Adam Smarte scored the first goal of the game and was followed by Abrams, who closed out the first half with a penalty kick. Sophomore Davin Kono scored the third and final goal for the Slugs, securing their victory.
“It always feels good to score, especially when you play defense,” Abrams said. “I don’t get a chance to score very often so when it goes in, it’s nice.”
For the spectators, the game was pure entertainment. The Slugs’ tight defense and hard physical contact kept the fans on their toes.
One play in particular was called into question when the referee awarded a penalty kick to East Bay after one of its players collided with the Slug goalkeeper.
Though the Slugs came off the field with a 2-0 lead over East Bay at the end of the first half, the lead had players on-edge.
In previous games this season, the Slugs have repeatedly given up a goal in the second half after a halftime lead.
“It has kind of been an issue with this team,” Coach Dan Chamberlain said. “We came out a bit flat in the first ten minutes, giving up a goal, but the guys responded well.”
The Slugs have one more home game left, but will first travel to Minnesota this weekend in hopes of improving their record and earning a spot in the playoffs.
Due to UCSC’s independent school status and lack of a conference, there is no guarantee of continuing after regular season play.
The Slugs are excited and nervous for this next road trip to see how they stack up against other highly ranked teams across the country.
Their ultimate goal is to win the rest of their games and make it to playoffs.
“The great part about it is that our destiny is in our own hands,” Chamberlain said. “So if we go out and win the rest of our games and win in Minnesota, there is no way that the selection committee can keep us out the tournament.”