The afternoon was cloudy in Santa Barbara, but the storm was severe in Harder Stadium on Sunday when Cal State Fullerton routed the UCSB women’s soccer team 5-2.
The match between the two top teams in the Big West Conference was anticipated to be a dog fight the whole way through. The game was instead one-sided, with Fullerton dictating the action from the opening minute of play when Titan midfielder Tennli Ulicny scored a header off a pass that took the wrong bounce for the Gauchos’ defense.
“Everyone worked really hard today,” senior midfielder Emily Hutchinson said. “But things just did not turn out the way we wanted them to.”
This season, Santa Barbara has responded well when behind on the scoreboard, but against Fullerton things would only get worse. The most damaging play for the Gauchos came at the 29:47 mark, when freshman forward Jen Borcich took an awkward fall on UCSB’s offensive end. Borcich, who is having a phenomenal rookie season with 11 goals and seven assists, was rushed to the emergency room with what appeared to be a broken wrist.
“Losing JB was a real blow for us,” freshman midfielder Stephanie Thayer said. “She is the heart and soul of our team.”
The Titans scored one more goal to take a 2-0 half-time lead into the locker room when freshman forward Kellie Cox was found wide open right in front of the goal. She had a good first touch and knocked the ball in with a far post shot.
The second half was more of the same for both teams, as the Titans scored two more unanswered goals in the opening 15 minutes. The Santa Barbara defense had been solid this season, giving up only seven goals in the last 14 games. But there were a lot of holes in it Sunday, as the Gauchos sorely missed the presence of junior defender Katie Wilson, who was out with the stomach flu. With Wilson on the sidelines, the defense fell prey to inexperience and the Titans were presented with many opportunities to score. They were able to capitalize on five of their shots, each from point distant range.
The Gauchos did not score until 29:01 to go, when freshman midfielder Krystal Sandza’s power shot was deflected by the Titan goalkeeper. Senior captain and midfielder Kathryn Fox found the rebound, juked her defender and then reloaded for a shot. Fox nailed it from outside to notch her first goal of the season.
Fox’s goal ignited the Santa Barbara squad, who put together some good strings to unleash shot after shot on the Titan goalkeeper. Unfortunately, the Titan offense was doing the same thing on the other side of the field and was able to find the back of the net first. This time it was Titan freshman defender Aja Simms who crossed the ball to an open Jenny Mescher streaking towards the goal. Mescher finished the play to put her team up 5-1 with 16:02 left to go.
UCSB made one more dent in the scoreboard when Sandza scored off a rebounded shot, but it was a case of too little too late for the Gauchos.
“We had a really off day today,” said Fox. “[Fullerton was] a good team, but no way are they three goals better than us.”
Though this loss puts Santa Barbara out of contention to win the conference title, there is still hope for a play-off berth for UCSB. The Gauchos have one more game on Friday at home against Cal Poly. With a win over the Mustangs, UCSB can hope for a wild card bid to the post season.