Coming off two home losses, the UCSB women’s soccer team will return to Harder Stadium to face Cal Poly Sunday night at 7.
The No. 19 Mustangs (12-1-1 overall, 3-0-1 Big West) are not only Santa Barbara’s biggest rival, but one of its toughest competitors.
Cal Poly, who leads the Big West, beat Riverside, 1-0, while the Gauchos (6-5-3 overall, 1-2-1 in the Big West) were blanked by the Highlanders, 2-0 last weekend.
“I don’t think we’re playing bad at all, we just can’t finish for some reason,” junior forward Randi Johns said. “We just need to put the ball in the back of the net.”
To do so, the Gauchos have been spending practice time focusing on organizing runs and the techniques of finishing, according to Head Coach Paul Stumpf.
“The team’s work rate is very good and they play within our system very well,” Stumpf said. “Finishing is as much a decision as a technical maneuver to move the soccer ball.”
In addition, various midfielders have successfully been taking shots in practice.
“It’s just about getting the confidence on the field,” junior forward Jen Borcich said.
Recently, the Gauchos have been settling for outside shots when they should be going into the box for higher-percentage opportunities.
“What we’ve been doing isn’t working,” Borcich said. “Everyone knows our game plan now and they know how to play us so it’s that much harder for us.”
Besides taking better shots, another main focus for Santa Barbara is on defense.
“If we’re not letting other teams score then we’re not losing,” Borcich said.
So far this season the Mustangs have outscored their opponents 25-6 and have posted nine shutouts. Despite outshooting its opponents, UCSB has been unable to score enough goals to secure a win in its last five games.
“The team defense is vastly improved,” Stumpf said. “We have more depth now than we’ve ever had.”
Cal Poly is the second ranked team Santa Barbara has played this season. The Gauchos lost to No.13 Pepperdine, 3-2, in overtime.
“We’re all really hungry for the goal,” Borcich said.