With a berth to the Big West Conference Tournament at stake, the UCSB women’s soccer team battled the elements and defeated Idaho, 8-0, and Utah State, 4-1, to grasp second place in the Big West and receive an invitation to the post-season tournament.
Coming into Sunday’s match at Harder Stadium, Santa Barbara (10-5-4 overall, 5-2-2 in the Big West) and Utah State (10-7-2 overall, 4-3-2 in the Big West) sat tied at fourth place in the Big West. The game would determine who would advance to the conference tournament and who would go home for the winter.
“Both teams had a lot to win or lose and that was the emotional part of this game,” Head Coach Paul Stumpf said. “Just being the fact that we were playing at home helped us.”
Entering half time, the Gauchos were leading 1-0, with an assist by freshman forward Allie Kueny leading to a goal by senior forward Alma Martinez. In a relatively slow first half, the Aggies took only seven shots whereas Santa Barbara took 14.
“In the first half, a little bit of the wind issue was blowing in our face and we had too big a gap in between our back four and our defensive midfield,” Stumpf said. “One of the things we talked about [at halftime] was eliminating that vertical gap.”
The second half saw more action, with Santa Barbara scoring three more goals and Utah one. UCSB took a total of 24 shots, more than twice as many as the Aggies’ 11.
Less than two minutes into the second half, junior midfielder Krystal Sandza fired one down the middle after beating two Utah State defenders from the midfield into the box.
“Krystal was just difficult to deal with from the central midfield today,” Stumpf said. “She was just slicing and dicing people.”
Junior forward Randi Johns and Kueny contributed to junior forward Jennifer Borcich’s goal at the 59:10 mark. Kueny and Johns crossed the ball over inside the box, deflecting a pass off of Borcich to bring the Gauchos to a 3-0 lead. Junior midfielder Cinthia Ruiz beat Aggie defenders on the left side to pass the ball to Kueny, who shot it past Utah State junior goalkeeper Megan Mills for the Gauchos’ final goal of the regular season.
Sophomore goalkeeper Jamie Considine, who has allowed no goals in the last four games of the regular reason, recorded three saves against the Aggies and three against Idaho. Senior goalkeeper Katherine Schaefers allowed one goal in the 74th minute of Sunday’s match and had one and two saves against Utah and the Vandals, respectively.
“This weekend was a really strong weekend for us,” Considine said. “It really boosted our confidence and helped us out.”
Despite wet weather and a rough start to the night, Santa Barbara blanked Idaho 8-0 Friday night at Harder stadium. The match, a doubleheader with the UCSB men’s soccer team, was initially delayed for more than an hour. In addition, the referees did not show up on time and the field surface was not desirable due to the rain.
“It was a real frustrating night to start with,” Stumpf said.
However, once the game began, the Gauchos took off with an early lead. Sandza started off the night one minute and 26 seconds into the match by netting a shot off an assist by Johns.
“Friday was unbelievable,” Stumpf said. “We created a bunch of great chances but the finishing was outstanding. That was the big difference that night.”
Martinez finished goals in the 33rd and 36th minutes against the Vandals (3-11-4 overall, 1-7-0 in the Big West). Five additional Gauchos scored, including junior forward Rachel Barnier, senior forward Alex Richey, Borcich and Kueny.
“This is the best team that I’ve ever coached at UCSB,” Stumpf said. “I think we’ve really stepped up and shown what we’re made of.”