The UCSB women’s soccer team is in full control of its own destiny this week, ending its last two conference matches on the road against Cal State Fullerton and Cal State Northridge. The Gauchos are currently tied with the Titans for first-place in the Big West standings, while the Matadors rank fourth in the conference.
Looking to keep its four-match winning streak active, Santa Barbara needs these two matches to chart its course for the Big West Tournament. It will be a difficult task as UCSB hopes to redeem last season’s losses to Fullerton and Northridge.
After grinding out two wins at home last weekend, the Gauchos face their toughest task yet against Cal State Fullerton, who owns an overall record of 15-2-1. Currently on a four-match winning streak, Head Coach Paul Stumpf is aware of the preparation his team will need, mentally and physically, to play the Titans on their senior night.
“[This weekend] will be treated like a tournament game to create that atmosphere before the [Big West],” Assistant Head Coach Austin Risenhoover said.
Similar to the Gauchos’ success, Fullerton has been on a streak of its own. The Titans have won seven out of their last eight contests.
Santa Barbara will have its work cut out for it as Fullerton’s redshirt senior forward Rebecca Wilson ranks first in the Big West with 16 goals and 37 points. Wilson netted her 16th goal of the season with a go-ahead shot in the 73rd minute to lift her team to a 1-0 victory over Cal State Northridge last Sunday.
The Big West’s leading scorer has helped her team achieve its 12-game winning streak at home, a run dating back to Oct. 23 of last season. Fullerton has been dominant in Titan Stadium — in addition to its winning stretch at home, the Titans have knocked in 30 of its last 36 goals at home.
Redshirt junior goalkeeper Jennifer Stuart will also be a key player to watch for Fullerton. Having nothing short of a breakout year, she owns a .849 save percentage behind goal, good for first in the Big West. Stuart contributed six saves in the Titans’ shutout victory over CSUN, earning her Big West Defensive Player of the Week honors. She comes into Friday’s match with six shutouts on the year, including a perfect record of 11-0 this season and 23-5-2 for her career.
Following Friday’s game, UCSB’s regular season finale will be against Cal State Northridge. The Gauchos are 15-7 in head-to-head bouts with the Matadors. Despite a solid record against the Matadors, CSUN holds the upper edge, taking last year’s match against UCSB in a 1-0 shutout.
Sophomore forward Cynthia Sanchez will carry the load for the Matadors, entering with a second-place ranking in goals scored in the Big West with 11. She last scored in CSUN’s 2-1 victory against Cal Poly on Oct. 11 Sanchez has 25 points on the year.
UCSB will travel on the road for its Thursday night match at Fullerton. The match will start at 7 p.m. The Gauchos’ final game against CSUN will kickoff on Sunday at 2 p.m.