Two wins away from a Big West Conference championship, the UCSB women’s soccer team hit a snag on the road to the title on Sunday with a 4-3 double-overtime loss to Cal State Fullerton.

The Gauchos (13-4-2, 6-1-1 in the Big West) entered the game on top of the Big West standings after stopping Riverside 2-0 on Friday. Sophomore midfielder Krystal Sandza broke the Big West single-season record for goals with 23 in the win. Coupled with Sunday’s demoralizing loss and a Cal Poly victory over the Highlanders, Santa Barbara slipped into second with one game remaining.

“Two really good teams played Sunday and that’s the great part,” UCSB Head Coach Paul Stumpf said.

UCSB jumped out to a 1-0 lead when Sandza scored the first of her two goals at the end of the first half against Fullerton. The Titans scored three unanswered goals and led 3-1 heading into the game’s final seven minutes.

“At that point I was starting to think that this could get ugly,” Stumpf said. “Then, the next thing you know, the girls just gathered themselves.”

Santa Barbara looked like it might have been able to pull off the victory after sophomore forward Jen Borcich and Sandza knocked in consecutive goals within three minutes of each other to send the game to overtime.

“I definitely felt that we had a lot of momentum, but in sudden death, momentum means nothing,” Stumpf said.

The match remained knotted through the first 10-minute overtime period. Then Titan junior midfielder Nicole Mularkey put UCSB’s title hopes on hold. Mularkey secured the win for Fullerton with a through ball from freshman midfielder Kandace Wilson at the 6:40 mark.

Stumpf credited UCSB Associate Head Coach Michael Friesen with keeping his team in the game. Friesen was forced into head coaching duties on Sunday after Stumpf got the boot during Friday’s contest and given a one-game suspension.

“[Friesen] ran the show Sunday and did a great job,” Stumpf said.

UCSB held the shots advantage over the Titans, 21-16, and freshman goalkeeper Jamie Considine racked up five saves, yet the solid numbers failed to help the Gauchos avoid their first conference defeat of 2002.

On Friday, Borcich and Sandza provided the offensive boost for Santa Barbara in a 2-0 victory over the Highlanders. Sandza gained sole possession of the conference crown for goals with her 23rd of the season in the 40th minute. Sandza, who went on to tally her 24th and 25th goals on Sunday, is now just one goal shy of tying Carin Jennings for the second-most goals in a season by a Gaucho.

Considine, who had seven saves on Friday, also recorded her ninth shutout of the season, the most ever by a Gaucho freshman.

Santa Barbara will play Cal Poly on Friday in the season finale that will determine the Big West champion.

“If we win Friday, we’re in [the postseason] for sure,” Stumpf said.

Despite Santa Barbara’s loss to Fullerton, a win on Friday would let the Gauchos slip by the Mustangs for the title with 22 points. A loss would open the door for Fullerton to climb into second and virtually eliminate UCSB’s postseason hopes.