Gaucho women’s soccer will look to end their nonconference season on a high note as they head to Fresno State on Friday to take on the Bulldogs. However, the team (4-4-1) will have to play without their star forward, senior Kailyn Kugler, who will be forced to watch from the sidelines for the second straight game with a pulled quad.
“The trainer and I … decided that it would be best to rest my leg for Oklahoma as well as for Fresno,” Kugler said. “Considering conference play starts next week, we want to make sure that I am completely healthy for that because our first two conference games are going to be tough.”
As the team’s primary weapon, Kugler will be leaving a significant space out on the pitch. She leads the team with 24 shots, half of them on goal. She also tacks on two goals and two assists to that, making her the team’s most productive player. This week, Head Coach Paul Stumpf will have to look elsewhere for those numbers.
“It is a very big gap,” Stumpf said. “We tried a couple things in practice where we put different people in that target spot she normally plays. Some players are going to have to step up and play a role they’re not used to playing.”
Senior forward Kylie McDonald, for one, knows that expectations of her to step up will be high.
“I feel a lot more pressure,” McDonald said. “We definitely miss Kailyn, she’s a huge part of our offense, and I definitely can’t do what she does, so we’re kind of missing that piece. I know that all the offensive players definitely feel more pressure to score goals without relying on her.”
Even more pressure will be put on the Fresno State match as the Gauchos try to finish the non-conference season with a win. After starting the season on a 3-0 tear, the team evened out, putting together a 1-4-1 record since then, including a 1-0 loss to Oklahoma on Sunday, the team’s first home loss of the season.
“We’re a really good soccer team. We play really quality soccer. Each of those games that we’ve lost we’ve had opportunities,” Head Coach Paul Stumpf said. “We are measured by our results, and so I’m a little bit disappointed with some of the results, but the development has been continuous.”
That Oklahoma game saw UCSB in a defensive struggle, something that McDonald does not want to see again.
“I was pretty dead after the game trying to make up for all the running I had to do on defense,” McDonald said. “It’s important to stay defensive-minded, but what’s more important is playing our game and not letting the other team affect what we’re there to do.”
And what the Gauchos are there to do is score, regardless of personnel.
“We’re creating a number of opportunities but not maximizing those opportunities,” Stumpf said. “It would be great for us to stick some goals in. We know we can defend, but we’ve not done a great job of scoring so we are looking to get some balance there.”
The overriding goal all season will be the conference tournament in November, something Stumpf always has in the back of his mind.
“Our focus now is to keep getting better every day, so when that conference tournament rolls around in early November we’re rolling on all cylinders,” Stumpf said. “And the team is on board in that. I still really like our chances going forward.”
Kickoff against Fresno State will be at 7 p.m. on Friday before the conference season starts a week later when the Gauchos hit the road to take on UC Riverside.