UC-Santa Barbara fans knew the Hoosiers’ names. They knew IU’s numbers, and they heckled the team with words and tortilla shells.
The 10,114 hostile crowd members affected Indiana’s matchup with UC-Santa Barbara. Throughout the 90 minutes of missed passes and miscommunication, IU was unable to score a goal on eleven shots, losing 3-0 to the Gauchos.
“The best way to define it is hectic play,” freshman defender Matt Wiet said. “I was getting hit in the back of the head with the tortillas, but I thrive on this stuff.”
Dominating the first 20 minutes of play, the Hoosiers’ feet upheld their top-25 ranking. But as the game continued, play became sloppy, and IU lost focus.
“We just never got to playing our game,” sophomore forward Will Bruin said. “Their pressure kind of kept us on our heels. We didn’t adjust well to that, and we just never got our game flowing.”
The Gauchos’ first goal came in the 38th minute of the game, but the second half is when the Hoosiers’ problems began.
“The second half didn’t go as well as the first half did,” Wiet said. “After that second goal, we kind of lost a little gas, and then after that, the third one was a dagger. I don’t want to say it finished us because we still fought after that, but after 3-0, it’s tough to come back.”
Gaucho Nation helped make the environment unfavorable to IU. The UC-Santa Barbara faithful knew No. 9 Indiana playing against their No. 11 team was not an event to take lightly, so the fans used blue-and-yellow-painted tortilla shells to turn the soccer pitch into a Mexican food dish.
“They were just launching them at us,” Wiet said. “They were throwing them at us while we were running down the sidelines and when we were trying to do throw-ins.
“DK (Daniel Kelly) actually tried to catch one and eat one, but he unfortunately didn’t. They all probably had a pack of tortillas, because they had a lot.”
The crowd’s heckling increased after senior back Ofori Sarkodie tried clearing some of the painted shells off the field.
“They threw about 100 more at him,” Wiet said. “He tried it again, so they threw about 200 more. It was kind of a never-ending cycle. They cleaned it up at halftime, and when the second half started there were 400 tortilla shells on the field.”
Regardless of the distractions, the Hoosiers did not dominate the ball like they had against No. 13 Kentucky just three days earlier. Bruin said the home-field advantages can always be used as an excuse.
“We should have just tuned it out and just played the way we play, but we just never got it going,” Bruin said. “I’m pretty disappointed, but in the same breath it was a good thing that happened – to get a wake-up call.”
Although IU coach Mike Freitag said he questions the Gauchos’ second goal and whether UC-Santa Barbara’s Machael David was offside, the game was a learning experience for his team.
“All in all, we played a good team,” Freitag said. “On the day, they outperformed us. We’ll get stronger from this game and on the road. It will help us.”