After a 2-0 win against Westmont in their final exhibition game, the UCSB women’s soccer team is set to open the regular season tonight against Cleveland State at Harder Stadium.
Back to back exhibition wins have the Gaucho’s confidence riding high as they look to make it consecutive seasons with an opening game victory. Cleveland State will enter the game after having gone 1-0-1 in exhibition play with a 2013 overall record of 8-9-1.
“What we have gained from those [scrimmages] is a thing I like to call, time in the environment.” Head Coach Paul Stumph said. “Two scrimmages really helps the girls with the comfort level of facing an opponent.”
This will be the first time UCSB has faced Cleveland State in the regular season, so the Gauchos must be ready for anything once play begins.
“To be honest, we don’t know much about them.” Stumph said. “We need to go out there and chart the game. Our players must keep their minds nimble and we will play to our strengths.”
On paper, the 2013 statistics for the Gauchos and Cleveland State are relatively even. Both teams shot a total of 26 goals on the season and averaged around one goal per game. However, there are a couple key differences that look to provide the Gauchos with an edge.
While Cleveland State shot a higher shot percentage, .129 to .109, respectively, the Gauchos averaged nearly one more shot per game and took 22 more shots than Cleveland State last season. These additional opportunities could prove crucial to earning that coveted opening win.
The biggest statistical difference however, lies in goals allowed average. In the 2013 season, Cleveland State had a GAA of 1.22 while the Gauchos posted a GAA of only 0.87. This large difference is testament to the Gaucho’s strong defense and the stellar play of junior goalkeeper Beth Ritter who tallied a total of eight shutouts last season.
“This season, we are just hoping to be more consistent.” Ritter said. “We are all super fit and ready to go.”
Joining Ritter in the starting lineup are fellow preseason honorees senior midfield/forward Indiana Mead and senior midfield/forward Madison Beckley. Mead and Beckley combined for seven goals, five assists and a total of 19 points.
“We want to play hard and win,” Mead said. “We have had a complete shift from last season and this year, we have been vocal that our main goal is winning.”
The Gauchos must be weary of top opposing strikers junior Vickie Havas and senior Amanda Sivic. Havas led the team with seven goals and four assists, while Sivic was close behind with five goals and four assists.
The match is set to kick off tonight at 7 p.m.