A new season with a different attitude brings a new motto: Believe. That is the saying going around the UCSB women’s soccer team this year and that which the players have embraced as they prepare for the start of the season.
An aggressive mentality and gritty play on the field, as well as the new motto, will be the backbone for this UCSB team.
“I think we have as reasonable a shot as everyone else,” Head Coach Paul Stumpf said. “All the big teams in the Big West are so close that on any given day one person can kind of turn the other over. I think we have just as good of a shot as anyone just as long as we stay healthy.”
UCSB comes in with the goal of qualifying for the Big West Conference Tournament for the first time since 2009. Last season, Santa Barbara finished in ninth place in the league with only seven points earned in total.
This season UCSB was picked to finish sixth in the Big West Conference Coach’s Poll. However, the Gauchos will have to stay healthy and overcome a lack of goal scoring that plagued the team last season. Although four players underwent offseason surgery and will not be ready for the early part of the season, the majority of the team enters in strong shape and focused on avoiding injury.
“We don’t want to have as many injuries as we did last year,” senior defender Lindsay Gankema said. “We all came in fit, which helped and we’re going to work in the weight room.”
Santa Barbara managed only 19 goals last season, the fewest in the entire league. Because of an inability to finish on many scoring opportunities, 13 new players were brought in this year with the intention of creating plays on offense and putting the ball on frame.
“A lot of them have different personalities on the field, meaning they have different styles of play,” junior midfielder Indiana Mead said. “I think they’re really technical, so they bring a new spark on the team we definitely needed.”
Added playing time will also give experience to the freshman and add depth to offset potential injury down the stretch. Although the new freshman will try to make an impact early on, team chemistry is still something that the Gauchos have to develop in the first month of their non-conference schedule as they prepare for league play beginning in October.
“We’re working on [chemistry] because chemistry is important,” Gankema said. “I wouldn’t say it is necessarily hard but it’s going to take a little bit of time.”
The blueprint for the Gauchos’ success this season centers primarily on the defensive end of the pitch. Four seniors will play defense for the Gauchos including twin sisters Paige and Lindsay Gankema and center back Taylor Gehring, who returns from injury this season. Four-year starting goalkeeper Makenna Henry, who played injured for a large portion of last season, will command the posts again this year.
“Defensively we will be very strong … most of us have been really close on and off the field and we already have that chemistry,” Gankema said. “We all work really well together, we read each other very well and get back for each other and that makes us strong.”
UCSB plays 11 non-conference matches with its first conference game at home against UC Irvine on Oct 4.
A version of this article appeared on page 16 of August 28, 2013′s print edition of The Daily Nexus.
Photo by Cedar Lay of The Daily Nexus.