After a strong showing in nonconference play, the Titans were rudely awakened by the first game of their Big West schedule as the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos took a 5-2 win over the Titans on Thursday night.
“We’re a lot better than we played. That did not exemplify what kind of team we are,” Titans Head Coach George Kuntz told Cal State Fullerton Sports Media.
The Titans looked good early, taking a 1-0 lead in the 15th minute when midfielder Mark Hernandez set up Ross McPhie for his team and Big West-leading fifth goal of the season, but their momentum didn’t last long.
Titans goalie Alfredo Cortez held a two-game shutout streak heading into the match but had his hands full in the first half of the game as the Gauchos fired in five shots, three of which were on net. The Titans weren’t able to generate as many attempts as UCSB, taking just two shots in the first half and only one shot on goal.
The Gauchos were able to tie things up just before the teams headed into the locker room when UCSB’s Derek Kryzda scored his first goal of the season in the 41st minute to tie the game 1-1.
The Titans regained the lead in the 58th minute when Bass Sarr scored, but the momentum didn’t last long.The Gauchos got back-to-back goals from Sahid Conteh and Ignacio Tellechea in the 58th minute to give UCSB a 3-2 lead.
“Our heads went down and the guys lost their composure. Once that happens it’s hard to pull them out of it,” Kuntz said.
Only four minutes later, the Gauchos scored again, upping their lead to 4-2 and putting the game further out of reach before a 77th-minute game-deciding goal from Rodney Michael put the game completely out of reach at 5-2.
“We didn’t respond well when we scored (and) it was pretty poor defending for us tonight,” Kuntz said. “I’m disappointed in that.”
The Titans will have a chance at redemption as they continue their first Big West road trip of the season with a game against Cal Poly Saturday at 7 p.m.