It’s been over six months since the UCSB women’s soccer team lost the Big West Championship-deciding match to Cal Poly but the Gauchos can’t wait for their shot at revenge in 2003-04.

Santa Barbara generated one of its most impressive seasons under UCSB Head Coach Paul Stumpf last season, who guided the Gauchos to a 13-5-2 overall record and a 6-2-1 mark in the Big West. The record is Stumpf’s best in his four-year tenure at Santa Barbara.

The Gauchos lose three important ingredients this season that helped make the 2002 recipe just right. Midfielder Jen Codington, defender Katie Wilson and midfielder Erica Perrotta graduated and will not be around to make a run at the Big West Championship that so closely eluded them last season.

“Those three girls have been a part of our program for four years and just came with the attitude that ‘We are going to turn this program around,'” Stumpf said. “This next group of girls can take us to the next level, though.”

The next group of Gauchos consists of two superstars, a mix of experienced talent and a pair of new faces.

Midfielder Jen Borcich, a junior next season, scored 17 goals and tacked on seven assists last season. Borcich, the 2001 Big West Offensive Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year, led the conference with 11 goals and seven assists during her freshman campaign.

Midfielder Krystal Sandza was named 2002 Big West Offensive Player of the Year last year after leading the Big West with an astounding 25 goals and eight assists. Sandza will be a junior in 2003 and was second in the NCAA in scoring last season after leading one of the nation’s top scoring teams in points, goals and assists. Sandza was also a second-team All-Regional performer in 2002.

The most important part of next year’s squad may be the emergence of some of the talented veterans who will need to step up defensively if UCSB wants to make a run at the conference title. Sophomore Katie Cooper will lead this group of Gauchos, who notoriously gave up nearly as many goals as they scored last season.

“Katie Cooper is a phenomenal athlete,” Stumpf said. “But we need to do a better job of defending. We are going to change to more of a zone defense which will keep us more balanced and allow us to create more of a ball-oriented defense.”

Santa Barbara will welcome two freshmen to the squad next year, both of which should make an immediate impact. Darci Gwartz should look to make a run for a position vacancy located at the defensive central-midfielder spot. Megan Rourke, a two-time Adidas nationally recognized performer, shows great promise as a scoring threat. She was named New York High School Player of the Year this season and should be a great asset to an already formidable UCSB offensive attack.

“These girls only have about two weeks to show that they can help us before we start our season,” Stumpf said. “We aren’t going to put pressure on them. We just ask that they come to play when training camp opens on August 13.”

The Gauchos packed their schedule with tough pre-season opponents to prepare for the Big West. Santa Barbara will compete against six top-25 teams in the pre-season. UCLA and Pepperdine are both top-10 caliber squads while Tennessee, UNC Charlotte and the University of San Diego also appear on the tough list.

With the Big West creating a conference championship for the first time in five years, UC Berkeley will need to finish in the top four to qualify for the tournament, which begins at the end of the regular season. Fullerton, Cal Poly, Long Beach State and Riverside look to compete with the Gauchos for the top spot.

“We scheduled tough games so we could compete at the end of the year,” Stumpf said. “We don’t need to win every game, we just need to finish in the top four to give a chance.”