[UC SANTA BARBARA-CAL STATE NORTHRIDGE: Men]Sagi Lev-Ariscored a hat trick to lead Cal State Northridge to a 3-2 win over No. 11 UC Santa Barbara Friday evening in the Big West semifinals contest at Harder Stadium. UCSB, which went into the game with an 11-match unbeaten streak, finished with nine players after having Drew Murphy and Kevin Garcia-Lopez sent off.
Lev-Ari scored a penalty kick in the 78th minute to tie the match and then delivered the game-winner in the 83rd.
"It's the best feeling in the world to score in any semifinal, and to score three is even better," he said. "Beto [Velasquez] gave me two assists and I couldn't ask for more."
Lev-Ari opened the scoring with a header in the 58th minute, UCSB answered with two goals over the next 16 minutes on Marshall Cazares' volley and Frenchman Goffin Boyoko's free kick to take the lead before Lev-Ari's late heroics. He now has 16 goals on the season.
The Gauchos briefly took the lead in the 72nd minute after Boyoko curled in a free kick from just outside the box, but just over a minute later, however, the momentum swung in the Matadors' favor when Garcia-Lopez was sent off following his second yellow card for a handball infraction.
With the win, the Matadors advance to their second straight Big West final and will travel to face the No. 12 UC Irvine Anteaters on Sunday at Anteater Stadium. UC Irvine defeated UC Davis, 2-0, on Friday night in the other semifinal.
"Irvine does a number on us and they own us right now," said CSUN coach Terry Davila. "We need to get more mentally prepared and tactically alert to move the ball against them because they are a fine squad."