Christine Maurer fights a defender for possession of the ball. Stephen Manga/Daily Nexus

The UCSB women’s soccer team was on the road yet again Thursday and again showed its mental toughness battling back from an early 1-0 deficit to come back and best Fresno State 2-1 when all was said and done.

With the win, the Gauchos are now 6-1 overall on the season and are sitting behind only UC Riverside in the Big West standings in non-conference play as the Highlanders boast an unbeaten 5-0 record. Thursday’s win also improved UCSB’s road record to an impressive 4-1 mark.

On the flip side, Fresno State drops to 1-4-1 on the year with its lone win coming in its season opener against Montana. Additionally, the Bulldogs have now lost three straight, all three being against Big West opponents as they lost to UCR 2-0 and Cal State Fullerton 3-0.

In this match, Fresno State came out the aggressors playing at their own home turf. Within the first minute the Bulldogs already earned a shot on goal and by the second minute, they were on the board as junior Melissa Ellis knocked one past UCSB  junior goalkeeper Hanna DeWeese from the top of the box.

Finding themselves down early is not something the Gauchos are used to but it is an uphill battle they overcame this past weekend against Cal. In that match, UCSB found themselves down 2-0 after one half of play. Suddenly, being down 1-0 with 88 minutes to go isn’t ideal but it certainly isn’t backbreaking.

Santa Barbara regrouped and would not allow another shot from the home team all half. In fact, UCSB turned the table and became the aggressor earning nine shots on the half.

The Gauchos best chance to score the equalizer came in the 44th minute when junior forward Shaelan Murison’s shot hit the crossbar.

UCSB also had chances in the 29th and 32nd minute but senior Bulldog goalkeeper Nicole Theroux saved them both. She would finish with four saves after only playing the first half.

It didn’t take long after the break for the Santa Barbara to respond with results. At minute 50, senior defender Ryan Kokoska finished with a snipe and an erupting goal to even up the contest at one score apiece. Kokoska entered the game off the bench in the ninth minute as she elevated and confirmed coach Paul Stumpf’s substitution patterns.

Conductors of its own fate, UCSB sent junior Shaelan Murison out for a penalty kick in the 74th minute. Despite a seesaw back and forth scuffle between the two teams in the second half, Murison had a chance to propel her squad to a late lead.

The junior shocked a laser in the back of the net with fifteen condense minutes to spare as she single-handedly drew the life out of her opposing squad. With a 2-1 lead, the ‘Chos maintained control and emphasized focus down the stretch with premier communication.

A stern Bulldogs squad eyed a game-tying goal to pull even with UCSB in the second half but was shut down by Junior keeper Hannah DeWeese who picked up her first win of the season Thursday evening. DeWeese captained her squad with poise and tenacity alike as she saved three screaming shots over the final ten-minute frame to reinforce the single-goal victory.

Although conference play has yet to begin between opposing Big West foes, the Gauchos look more dominant and complex as the team continues to evolve and expand on their chemistry. They progress and adjust with every close game and look like promising contenders with conference play right around the corner.

UCSB will now look forward to a bit of a break as it doesn’t resume season play until next week earning a break this weekend.

Santa Barbara will face Weber State at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 14th at Wildcat Soccer Field.

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