Although the season ended in disappointing fashion for the UCSB women’s soccer team, the fact that the Gauchos were even in a position to be selected for a post-season tournament demonstrates the capabilities of the program.
“It was great to win games and have such a solid season in my last season here,” senior co-captain goalkeeper Mary Gleason said. “It is unfortunate that we weren’t able to go on to [the NCAA playoffs], but I’m definitely satisfied with the way the season turned out.”
Four years ago, Gleason and fellow seniors co-captain midfielder Kathryn Fox, midfielder Emily Hutchinson, and midfielder Brianna Preis played the field in Harder Stadium as freshmen struggling to a 4-14-1 overall record.
This year the four seniors – joined by Santa Rosa Junior College transfer, senior defender Kim O’Leary – helped amass an 11-7-1 overall record, 7-2 in conference. The team was also a contender in the Big West Championships and a playoff bid.
Not bad at all for a squad that finished at the bottom of the barrel in 1998.
“I’ve been with the team since the 4-14-1 season and to come from there to where we were this year is just awesome,” Gleason said. “It really made the four years of dedication and hard work worth it.”
This season, however, did not begin with bright lights and shining stars. The Gauchos dropped their first three games of the season, all of which were played at home.
In the recent past, Santa Barbara’s main problem was scoring, yet its primary problem in the wake of the 2001 season was keeping opponents from scoring. The first three games were lost by scores of 3-2, 2-1 and 6-4.
That all changed on a road trip to northern California where UCSB knocked off San Jose State and USF 3-1 and 1-0 respectively.
“That road trip was awesome,” Hutchinson said. “It really changed the momentum of our season.”
The team then came back and won a match-up against Weber State under the lights of Harder Stadium to secure its first home win.
Just as quickly as the Gauchos got the ball rolling, they encountered a somewhat bumpy path with three losses, a tie, and only one win over a span of the next five games. But what didn’t kill the Gauchos proved to make them stronger as they went on a tear and surged into second place while allowing their opponents to score a mere two goals during a five game winning streak.
With UCSB sitting pretty in second place, the Gauchos prepared to take on the eventual Big West Champ, Fullerton. Everything that could go wrong for the Gauchos did on a night when they saw their hopes of a league title disappear. Junior defender Katie Wilson had to sit the game out with the stomach flu, and halfway into the first half freshman forward Jen Borcich, who led the team and the conference in goals, assists, and points, went down with what turned out to be a severely broken forearm. Santa Barbara never got in synch and ended up losing the 5-2 decision to the Titans.
UCSB finished the season strong with a 1-0 victory over Cal Poly, but that wasn’t enough to take the team to the next level.
The Gauchos, however, racked up numerous Big West accolades. Borcich was named both the Conference Offensive Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year for her 11 goals and seven assists for 29 points. Fellow freshman forward Krystal Sandza joined Borcich on the All-Big West First-Team. Junior co-captain midfielder Jen Codington played well enough with three goals and five assists for 11 points to make the Conference Second-Team. Freshman forward Erin Griswold, Wilson and Gleason each received an All-Big West Honorable Mention.
Though this year’s Gauchos will lose the services of their talented seniors, Santa Barbara returns its three most potent offensive threats in Borcich, Sandza and Codington. Additionally, UCSB will return nearly all of what proved to be a very solid defense in the 2001 campaign.
“This season was such a great one to go out on,” Hutchinson said. “Personally it felt great to contribute on the field this year. Everything came together for us and all the hard work we did as a team definitely paid off.”