What started out as a measly road trip to get a few miles closer to the Big West Championship ended with a loss and a tie for the UCSB women’s soccer team, dropping the Gauchos to 1-1-1 in Big West Conference play and 6-3-3 overall.
Long Beach State shut out UCSB 1-0 on Friday while the Gauchos tied UC Irvine with one goal apiece Sunday.
UCSB, the early favorite to capture the conference title, brought the 49ers into sudden death overtime with a scoreless tie but could not end the game. LBSU, who was picked to finish in fifth place in preseason polls, have since won five of six games, including four by shutouts.
“When you lose in overtime it’s like you get your heart cut out,” UCSB Head Coach Paul Stumpf said. “It’s difficult to come back from that.”
Two days later and further south, the Gauchos came out flat against Irvine, causing Stumpf to replace six of the team’s 11 starters with substitutes.
“It was apparent that [the starters] were not ready to play today,” Stumpf said. “Their bodies just could not get started. Friday’s game took a little more out of them than we thought.”
Into the game came freshmen midfielders Darci Gwartz and Morgan Tanner, senior forward Alma Martinez and sophomore forward Kelly Daugherty, all of whom Stumpf recognized as major contributors in the battle with the Anteaters.
“When we made changes those players were really fresh and hungry and itching to put their stamp on the game,” Stumpf said. “They did an amazing job.”
Gwartz scored the only goal of the weekend in the 38th minute off an assist from junior midfielder Molly Martin to tie the score with the Anteaters.
“We stepped it up and ended up tying the score,” Gwartz said. “We had more chances [to score] throughout the game and in overtime, but we just couldn’t pull off a victory.”
The Gauchos could not step it up enough against the 49ers and suffered their first shutout loss since the season opener, ending UCSB’s six-match winning streak.
Despite the loss, Stumpf is confident in his squad’s capabilities.
“This team is solid from top to bottom,” he said. “We have a very potent offense, we have midfielders that work so hard and are skilled and disciplined, and our defense this year has been really good. I really don’t feel that we have any weaknesses.”
Junior captains, forward Jennifer Borcich, midfielder Krystal Sandza and defender Cinthia Ruiz play a large role in the team’s collective success.
“They definitely led us this weekend, picked up the work rate, and were unbelievable,” Stumpf said. “While they are vocally quiet, their actions speak loud to the players around them.”
Borcich fired two attempts against LBSU while Sandza issued one shot.
Sophomore goalkeeper Jamie Considine set a precedent for the Gaucho defense and has kept opposing teams to no more than one goal per match, with the exception of Saint Mary’s, who launched three goals against UCSB. Considine finished with four saves against the 49ers and two against the Anteaters.
Santa Barbara will host #5 Pepperdine on Thursday at 7 p.m. in a nonconference match at Harder Stadium before finishing up their six remaining conference contests.
“We really feel that it’s going to take all 25 members of this team to win the Big West Conference title and this weekend was a great example of that,” Stumpf said. “I feel like we can win the conference, but we really can’t lose another conference game.”
Gwartz is optimistic.
“I think we play better at home and we played well this weekend so we’ll be able to carry that into our games once we get some training sessions in,” she said.
Four of the Gaucho’s remaining six conference games will be played at Harder Stadium.