The 2017 season was full of ups and downs for the UCSB women’s soccer team. It finished the year off in second to last place of the Big West standings with a 6-8-5 overall, 2-4-2 conference record.
This season’s end result marks the Gauchos’ first losing record since the 2014 season, in which they went 8-9-2 and 2-6 in the Big West.
This is the second straight year that UCSB has not qualified for the Big West Tournament. It is the first time that Santa Barbara has failed to make the tournament in consecutive years since 2013 and 2014.
Prior to its meltdown of losing its final four matches consecutively, Santa Barbara was also a few goals away from making it to the Big West Tournament and at times played like the best team in the conference by far.
Even some of the major storylines of the season were contradictory for this team, as the sadness of losing one of the all-time Gaucho greats, senior forward Amanda Ball, who played her last game for UCSB on Sunday, was paired with the revitalizing vision of the future that freshman midfielder Christine Maurer offered with her incredible performance all season long.
Both Maurer and Ball, along with senior defensive midfielder Chace Schornstein, received Big West recognition for their outstanding play this year.
Maurer was selected to the All-Freshman team, and deservedly so, as she was an absolute menace for the Gauchos during the season. The midfielder scored six goals for UCSB this year, good for second on the team, and earned a starting spot and leading role for years to come. Her goal total was the most tallied by a freshman within the program’s last two seasons.
Schornstein and Ball were both selected to the All-Big West First Team, the former making it for the first time while the latter ends her career with two first-team selections.
The two played vastly different roles but were both vital for the success of the team over the last four years. Schornstein was a defensive stalwart during her time at UCSB and had both the tasks of maintaining the defense and creating the attack. Her ability to do both so well was what led to her starting 75 of 77 possible games in her career.
Ball, on the other hand, was one of the greatest attacking threats UCSB has ever had, and this year she became the first UCSB player in a decade to score 10 goals or more in consecutive seasons. She led the Big West in goals (10) and points (22) and consistently carried the Gauchos to victory when the team wasn’t playing well as a whole. The impact that these three players had this year was immense; however, the team as a whole still had some setbacks that they will certainly look to address in the offseason.
One focus for the Gauchos going into next season will be tightening things up on the defensive side of the field. UCSB gave up more goals than all but two other teams in the league this year, tying Cal Poly at 25, which is a statistic that Head Coach Paul Stumpf will surely want to correct going into his 20th season.
Still, that stat is partially deceiving, as the Gauchos did not give up more than two goals in a game in their last month of play, which shows that they have the potential to become one of the stingiest defenses in the Big West.
However, two glaring questions remain going into next year: Can UCSB maintain consistency on the defensive end for the length of an entire season? And how is it going to fare with two of its best defensive presences in Schornstein and senior defender Kate Shoemaker having already played their last games as Gauchos this past Sunday?
Another big question is going to be how the Gauchos will replace the offensive production of Ball, who was a huge reason that UCSB ended the season as one of the top offensive teams in the conference.
UCSB finished fourth in the league in goals (24) and third in the league in assists (23), which is a good indicator moving forward that the majority of its goals were a byproduct of good ball movement and passing and not just the result of amazing skill by Ball, who deserves acclaim for her production.
As mentioned before, one answer to this question of offensive production that the Gauchos will surely be hoping for is the continued improvement of Maurer, following the newcomer’s standout season. Although Ball is leaving some huge shoes to fill, Maurer seems more than capable of taking on a bigger role as she transitions into her second year.
This last season was rough at times. The Gauchos lost to teams they should have beat and couldn’t put together enough wins to qualify for the postseason.
Yet, the determination of the players to continue to improve, to play their best defense at the end of the season and ultimately to give it their all every time they were out on the field made it so that even with the losses this season, it could be considered nothing less than a success and a learning experience.