Perfection isn’t a word that should be casually tossed around in sporting circles, for in the strictest sense perfection is almost impossible to achieve. That said, the UCSB women’s club soccer team was perfect this season.
Thursday the defending national champion Gauchos headed to Alabama to start off postseason tournament play. Three days and six games later, the Santa Barbara women were the first team in history to be crown national champs twice. Not only did UCSB finish the season 20-0, the Gauchos absolutely dominated the entire country, posting an unprecedented and unbelievable 87-6 goal differential on the season.
“It’s an incredible feeling to make history and know that without a doubt you were the best team,” Head Coach Todd Heil said.
Santa Barbara certainly was the best club team in the country all season. Coming into the tournament, the Gauchos were 14-0 and had outscored their opponents 63-4. After two weeks off, they entered their first game on Thursday against the University of North Carolina and demolished them 8-0. Their next game was against Boston College, who suffered a 5-0 beat down at the hands of UCSB. The Gauchos then went on to beat Dayton University 2-0 before moving on to the quarterfinals against the University of Colorado, who they beat 3-0. Penn State gave SB their toughest test of the season in the semi-finals, However, as they have done all season, the Gauchos emerged victorious after beating the Nittany Lions 2-1 in overtime to head to their second title match in as many years.
In the finals, the Gauchos were pitted against the University of Arizona, who proved to be no match for UCSB, who won handily by a score of 4-1 to seal their second straight championship.
“I think what we accomplished this year showed the tremendous character of all 22 players on the team,” Heil said. “We’re very fortunate to have a skilled team. However, it takes incredible character and discipline to go undefeated and win back-to-back national championships, something that has never been done in women’s collegiate club soccer.”
As the final seconds of the final game ticked away, Heil felt what most coaches and players will never get to feel.
“To know that you just accomplished something that no one else ever has is a very humbling feeling,” Heil said. “To see the excitement in your players’ eyes is a reward like no other.”
According to senior midfielder Shelly Murphy, much of the credit for their season belongs to Heil.
“Todd has the unique ability as a coach to push us to do our best, while reminding us of how much fun the game should be,” Murphy said. “Before every game, he tells us three important things: work hard, work for each other, and have fun.”
Despite the fact the Heil clearly deserves a lot of credit, he gives it all to his players.
“I’m a firm believer that a coach is only as good as their players,” Heil said. “I’ve been very fortunate to have talented soccer players who are willing to listen and work. In the end the success of any team is defined by the players who suit up to compete. I couldn’t be more proud of a group of young women.”
For the seniors, including senior captain Loran Logie, this was the last game of their soccer careers. According to Logie, there could not have been a better way for it to end.
“Words can’t express how honored I feel to be a captain of this team,” Logie said. “Not only do we work hard on the field but the bond we have off the field is incredible. To leave UCSB as a captain of a back-to-back national championship team with an undefeated season is more than many soccer players will ever achieve.”
For the seniors, the ride has some to its end. For the rest of the team and for Heil, however, there are still more games to be played, more goals to be accomplished. Though it may be a bit early to be looking forward to next season, Heil still knows what to expect from his team when next year’s season begins.
“Our expectations for next year are the same as they are every year: to compete to the best of our ability and represent UCSB with class and pride,” Heil said.