Most UCSB-Cal Poly matchups already come with an added amount of intensity; however, you will be hard-pressed to find a Blue-Green rivalry game with as much on the line as tomorrow’s game. With only two matches remaining in the regular season, the UCSB women’s soccer team hosts the Mustangs with both teams in contention for a place in the Big West Tournament.
“It’s a little nerve-racking because we’re so close,” senior co-captain Lindsay Gankema said. “If we play our best and do our best and come out with wins or even ties in the next two weeks, we think we’ll for sure get in. It’s exciting for all of us to be really close to reaching our goal.”
UCSB currently stands at 9-7-1 overall and is in a second-place tie in the Big West conference at 3-3. Despite Santa Barbara’s performance in league play so far, no other team in the Big West has played as well as the Mustangs, who are in first place at 9-7 overall and 5-1 in the league.
The Mustangs clinch at least a share of the Big West regular season title if they win. Meanwhile, UCSB has not played in the postseason since 2009, but with a victory it will inch closer.
“The season is coming to an end and the girls are in a very good position to meet one of their goals and that is to get back to the Big West Tournament,” Head Coach Paul Stumpf said.
Sophomore goalkeeper Beth Ritter has emerged as the Gauchos’ most consistent player in only her first year starting. All of UCSB’s wins this year have come by way of shutout with Ritter producing eight of those, the most by a Gaucho since 2003. In her last game, Ritter had a career-high 10 saves and shutout the opponent in the previous home game against UC Riverside.
“Really it’s just the defense. We’re stepping up strong, we had a few starters out [against UC Riverside], so we had a makeshift lineup in our defense and they stepped up,” Ritter said. “Some freshman did great and carried the ball out of there.”
Cal Poly will take advantage of a hampered UCSB squad that started two freshmen in the backline in its previous two games. Cal Poly sophomore forward Elise Krieghoff, the leading goal scorer in the country, will try to exploit Santa Barbara’s inexperience.
Krieghoff has been named Big West Player of the Week five times already and her 18 goals is a school record and third all-time in Big West history.
“We haven’t really been focusing on her in our game plan,” Gankema said. “We’re trying to focus on us and how we’re going to come out. We know that she has scored a lot of goals so we just have to make sure we do well in defending.”
Besides playing to remain in postseason contention, an extra incentive is to send the five Gaucho seniors, including Gankema, off with a win in their final regular season home game of their careers.
“I’m going to be really pumped up because I know it’s my last home game and we have a lot to prove, especially against Cal Poly,” Gankema said. “Just having the thought that it’s our last home game will help everyone want to work even harder, for the seniors and for each other.”
Friday night’s match against Cal Poly is scheduled for 7 p.m.
A version of this article appeared on page 6 of October 24, 2013′s print edition of The Daily Nexus.
Photo by Magali Gauthier of The Daily Nexus.