The UCSB women’s soccer team may be down, but it is not out.
Santa Barbara has been faced with its share of woes in the last week, losing a disappointing 5-2 match to first-place Fullerton to drop into third place in the Big West.
The Gauchos are now in a must-win situation as they head into the final conference game of the season Friday night at Harder Stadium against defending Big West champion Cal Poly. Only one team from the Big West Conference receives a guaranteed bid to the postseason, and Fullerton beat out Santa Barbara on Sunday to secure the invite. Now UCSB is fighting tooth and nail for a victory against the Mustangs to take second in conference and be considered for an at-large bid.
“We’re as determined as ever,” senior captain and midfielder Kathryn Fox said. “We know we have to win on Friday to have a chance at the playoffs.”
The game against Fullerton also ended the season for the Gauchos’ most productive offensive player, freshman forward Jen Borcich. The rookie phenom out of Sacramento led Santa Barbara with 11 goals – good for 33 percent of Santa Barbara’s total – and seven assists, but will now sit out the remainder of the season due to a broken wrist, suffered after a hard landing against Fullerton.
“At this point, the bone has been set, and surgery will not be required,” UCSB Head Coach Paul Stumpf said. “We are hoping it will remain that way. She will have another round of x-rays later this week or early next week.”
Normally the absence of a player of Borcich’s caliber would alter the playing style of a team; however, that is not altogether the case with this year’s Santa Barbara squad.
“JB is out, and it does change us, but not that much,” Stumpf said. “This is the most talent we have had here, and we will put one or two players into JB’s spot, and I expect them to be very productive.”
The two forwards that will get the call in Friday’s match are sophomore Kelsey Bollinger and freshman Erin Griswold, who according to Stumpf “have good size, good speed, technique and score a decent number of goals in training.”
“We will obviously miss having JB out on the field,” Fox said. “But hopefully somebody else will step up.”
Cal Poly (7-8-4 overall, 4-2-2 Big West) currently stands in fourth place in the Big West. It is looking to add to its three-game winning streak against the Gauchos. Santa Barbara, however, may have some other ideas.
“We’ve worked really hard this week in practice because we want to go out strong,” senior midfielder/forward Brianna “Beezy” Preis said. “We know we have to win this game to be considered for play-offs, and that’s what we are aiming for.”