The UCSB women’s basketball team is preparing for what is probably its biggest road trip of the season this weekend.
The Gauchos will first travel to Stockton to play second-place Pacific (11-7, 4-1 in the Big West) and will then head to the Pyramid to face third-place Long Beach State (9-9, 4-1).
Santa Barbara is undefeated in the Big West so far in the season, improving its overall conference-winning streak to 47 games. That streak, however, promises to get a major test this weekend, as it appears that UOP and LBSU are closing in on the Gauchos’ talent advantage. UCSB has been preparing for this road trip for quite some time and knows that this is where the conference title can be won or lost.
"It’s definitely been on the coaches’ minds, even though they would never admit it," senior forward Nicole Greathouse said. "We’ve never played well [at Pacific], and if we want to get where we’re going this year, we’ve got to get past Pacific."
In the past, UCSB has been able to walk all over its competition, which usually seemed to be intimidated right from the opening tip. This season, however, Gaucho opponents are playing with more confidence than in recent memory.
"They always have that tradition, confidence and momentum, which is usually worth five to 10 points right away," said Idaho Head Coach Hillary Recknor, after the Gauchos defeated the Vandals at the Thunderdome. "But Pacific and Long Beach can match up and give them a challenge this season."
Santa Barbara (11-6, 5-0) knows that it will have to play with more intensity if it wants to keep its record-winning streak alive. The Gauchos have added more defensive schemes to their playbook, including the box-and-one, instituted particularly for these two games.
"I’m really excited about this road trip, as is the team," UCSB Head Coach Mark French said. "Frankly, we get kind of bored with the Big West teams, but we all know that we are going to have to play really well to come away with two wins. I think it’s great to see if we’re up to the challenge."