Despite a 1-0 victory against Cal Poly on Nov. 9 to seal second place in the Big West Conference, the NCAA selection committee overlooked the UCSB women’s soccer team when considering which schools would compete in the postseason.
“We were all really hoping to make the playoffs,” junior defender Katie Wilson said. “But UCSB is not exactly known for its athletics, and the Big West Conference doesn’t necessarily get that much respect. We played really well this year, and we are disappointed in being overlooked.”
Cal State Fullerton will be making its first postseason appearance and is the only Big West representative in the 64-team field that will participate in this year’s playoffs. Only one team from the conference is guaranteed a spot in the postseason, and the Titans secured the bid when they defeated Santa Barbara on Nov. 4 to take home a first-place conference finish. Fullerton will play against third-seeded UCLA on Nov. 16.
UCSB (11-7-1 overall, 7-2 Big West) was hoping to nail an at-large bid and thought it had a better chance due to the 16-team expansion from years past.
“We had a 50-50 chance to make [the playoffs],” junior midfielder Erica Perrotta said. “We were optimistic about our chances; we really had our hopes up. We are obviously very disappointed.”
But things did not pan out the way the Gauchos had hoped they would, as the NCAA selection committee acted like the fat lady who sang an end to their season.
Even though the Gauchos fell short of making the playoffs, they still had a season to be proud of.
Friday night against Cal Poly, sophomore forward Kelsey Bollinger put one in the back of the net in the opening ten minutes of action. This goal, which was assisted by freshman midfielder Krystal Sandza, proved to be the game winner for Santa Barbara. Both teams failed to score in the remaining 80 minutes of the game.
With the victory over the Mustangs, UCSB finished the season with 11 victories on the season. The 11 wins are the most Santa Barbara has bagged since 1993. 1993 was also the last time that the Gauchos were above .500, when they went 13-6-0.
“We had an awesome season this year,” Wilson said. “We improved so much from last year, and had the best season this program has had in a long time.”
Things don’t look so bad for the future of the Gauchos either. Though UCSB will lose two starters in senior captains, goalkeeper Mary Gleason and midfielder Kathryn Fox, the team returns not only its three top-point scorers, but also its starting defense.
With the addition of another strong recruiting class, Santa Barbara should look to challenge for the Big West title again next year.