With two wins last weekend, the UCSB women’s soccer team hopped in the driver’s seat for the final two weeks of the season and into first place in the Big West Conference.
“If we win out, we win [the conference],” UCSB Head Coach Paul Stumpf said.
The Gauchos (12-3-2, 5-0-1 in the Big West) knocked off Irvine 3-1 on Friday night at Harder Stadium, and, in dramatic fashion, squeaked by an evenly matched Long Beach State squad with a score of 1-0 on Senior Night on Sunday at home.
The 49ers (5-9-4, 3-2-2) clearly held the offensive upper hand against the Gauchos on Sunday but could not capitalize. In fact, neither team scored until the 88th minute of the game. UCSB sophomore forward Jennifer Borcich, the reigning Big West Freshman and Player of the Year, came through for her senior teammates with her 15th goal of the season. Borcich found positioning next to the far post as senior midfielder Jennifer Codington lobbed a free kick just in front of the net into a crowd of blue and yellow jerseys.
“I just jumped up in the air, we all collided, and I guess I just got the last touch,” Borcich said.
The Gauchos had a hard time keeping the smiles off their faces, playing keep-away for the final 2:40.
“The emotions are extremely high,” Codington said after the game. “Between the three of us seniors, it’s been a long road, but this team has been one of the best teams I’ve been on here. On and off the field the chemistry is incredible.”
While Friday’s game did not come down to the final three minutes, sophomore midfielder Krystal Sandza kept things just as exciting by climbing the ladder in some very impressive record books.
With her 22nd goal in the first half, Sandza tied the all-time single season Big West scoring record on Friday and moved into a third-place tie on Santa Barbara’s single season list. Former World Cup athlete Carin Jennings scored 22, 26 and 34 goals between 1983 and 1985 for UCSB before the Gauchos moved into the Big West. Sandza also became the first Gaucho to score 50 points in a season since Dianne Manore scored 59 in 1987.
Junior forward Alma Martinez and Borcich followed Sandza with goals of their own on Friday en route to the victory over the Anteaters. Sandza collected her 50th point while assisting on Martinez’s goal.
UCSB is the only remaining undefeated team in the Big West and now sits atop the standings with 16 points. Fullerton and Cal Poly, two of the Gauchos’ final three opponents, are right behind with 15 points.
Despite the tight race late in the season, the Gauchos are confident about the 2002 march toward the title.
“If we play the way I know we can, I think things will turn out well,” Codington said.
The Gauchos are set to take on Riverside and Fullerton this weekend. Santa Barbara will face Cal Poly in the season’s final game on Nov. 8.