Sometimes it’s the teams that you least expect that knock you out of contention for the postseason.
That’s exactly why UCSB women’s soccer Head Coach Paul Stumpf is not taking his team’s trip to Utah State and Idaho this weekend lightly.
“We’re playing two teams that we usually do fairly well against at home,” Stumpf said. “But on the road they can be very tough.”
The Gauchos (9-3-1, 2-0 in the Big West) will take on Utah State (6-7-2, 0-4 in the Big West) at 2 p.m. today in Logan then travel to Moscow for a match-up with Idaho at 1 p.m. on Sunday.
“We are trying to bounce back after a very shaky conference start so we are looking forward to [today’s] game to do just that,” Utah State Head Coach Jennifer Kennedy Croft said. “[Senior forward] Brigid Turner has been putting up serious numbers for us this season and continues to do so.”
Kennedy Croft said one of her main goals while facing the Gauchos will be containing sophomore midfielder Krystal Sandza.
“If we can find a way to shut down Sandza we will have a good shot at UCSB,” Kennedy Croft said.
Sandza, who received Big West Player of the Week honors this week for the third time this season, is still reeling from a two-week-long offensive explosion. Sandza has scored 10 goals in her last four games.
Stumpf said he is not worried about the possibility of a two- or even a three-player concentration on Sandza.
“If they try to overload one player with defenders, that just opens up a world of opportunities for another player,” Stumpf said.
The same situation may apply Sunday when the Gauchos take on Idaho (2-8-3, 0-3-1 in Big West) at Guy Wicks Field at the University of Idaho.
On paper, the Gauchos should have an easy time with the Vandals.
Junior midfielder Emily Nelson and sophomore midfielder Sarah April lead the Vandals with four goals apiece. The rest of their squad, however, has only compiled six other scores, leaving the entire Vandal team with five goals less than Sandza has alone.
Sunday’s contest looks a bit lopsided if you consider the goal differential between Sandza’s 19 and Idaho’s 14, but Stumpf is not convinced.
“Soccer is cruel game. There are some good teams out there with bad records,” Stumpf said. “If you let down at all and let a team get a quick, easy goal, then the pressure’s on you and you’ve got to score two goals to win.”