Right now the UCSB women’s soccer team is in the midst of a four game winning streak. Although four wins in a row is a relatively small streak by any sports standard, Gauchos fans should have high hopes that this season could bring home a conference championship.

During the past two seasons, the Gauchos have come brutally close to what has been an elusive Big West title. In 2001, UCSB dropped the championship-deciding match to Cal State Fullerton 5-2. In 2002, Cal Poly shutout Santa Barbara 2-0.

Those losses aside, 2003 has just as much potential as 2001 or 2002, if not more.

How much more? UCSB has had the Big West offensive player of the year each of the last two seasons, and they both return for 2003. The Gauchos return junior forward Jen Borcich, who won the offensive player of the year honors in 2001, as well as midfielder Krystal Sandza, who received the honors last season.

Since entering the program in 2000, Borcich and Sandza have become one of the top scoring tandems in the country. Together they have put away 60 goals, with Sandza scoring a Big West record 25 last year. Only a junior, Sandza is already fourth on the UCSB all time scoring list.

Senior forward Alma Martinez, who ranked third on the team in goals last season also returns as a starter. All in all, the Gauchos are bringing back five of six players who received All-Big West recognition last season.

Junior transfer Randi Johns is already making a name for herself on this year’s squad. Johns was named the California Community College player of the year in 2002 after scoring 37 goals. Johns had a goal and an assist in UCSB’s win over Oregon State last week and her consistency so far this season makes her an excellent compliment to Borcich and Sandza. Together, the trio should make the Gaucho offense even more threatening to opponents this season.

In the midfield the Gauchos lost First Team All-Big West selection Jen Coddington to graduation, but her shoes will be filled by sophomore Kristyn Bright, who was an All-Big West honorable mention last season. All-Big West honorable mention honoree Katie Cooper will lead the defense, along with sophomore goalkeeper Jamie Considine, who had a 1.11 goal average in 19 contests last season.

Despite their depth in talent, the Gauchos will still be put to the test this season. UCSB faces a harder schedule than in past seasons, and will hit the road to play non-conference opponents Tennessee, UCLA and North Carolina-Charlotte. The tough non-conference opponents should prove to be a good test for the Gauchos before league play begins, as conference opponent and last season’s Big West champ Cal Poly is already riding 8-0 record this season. Cal Poly comes to Santa Barbara Oct.19.

The Gauchos will kick off league play at home Friday night at 7:00 when they face off against Cal State Fullerton at Harder Stadium.