In the Big West championship-determining match, the UCSB women’s soccer team was shut out 2-0 by defending champion #20 Cal Poly on Sunday afternoon.
Despite breezing through the semifinals of the 2003 Big West Conference Women’s Soccer Tournament with a 3-2 win over third-seed Riverside, the second-seeded Gauchos couldn’t seem to get over the hump in the finals.
Cal Poly, the top-ranked team in the conference after going unbeaten in the Big West, grabbed an automatic berth to the 2003 NCAA Tournament with its victory over the Gauchos.
The match snapped Santa Barbara’s five-match winning streak and six-match unbeaten streak that commenced with a 2-2 tie against the Mustangs at Harder Stadium on Oct 17.
Just over one minute into Sunday’s game Cal Poly freshman forward Sharon Day assisted on junior Erin Martin’s goal from five yards out. Day scored the Mustangs’ second goal of the match at the 84:31 mark and went on to be named tournament MVP.
“We weren’t quite ready to play,” UCSB Head Coach Paul Stumpf said. “It was basically a huge playoff game and they were more calm and composed than we were.”
Although both teams finished the match with eight shots apiece, the Mustangs were able to keep UCSB off of the scoreboard.
“Their defense was really good and they were very well organized,” Stumpf said. “They had nothing to lose.”
Had Cal Poly not secured the conference title, their undefeated regular season record would have likely given them an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. Santa Barbara, on the other hand, is less likely to win a bid, having ended the season 11-6-4 and suffering a midseason five-game winless streak.
Ironically, the Mustangs ended Santa Barbara’s season last year with the conference championship-deciding victory over the Gauchos in the season finale. This year marked the Big West’s first year in tournament format to determine the conference champion.
“Of course [Cal Poly] wanted to win the title,” Stumpf said. “But we had all the pressure on us.”
In Friday’s semifinal match against Riverside at Irvine’s Anteater Stadium, Santa Barbara found the back of the net first when junior forward Jennifer Borcich capitalized at the 27:04 mark off a corner kick by junior forward Randi Johns.
Sophomore central midfielder Kristyn Bright scored an unassisted goal that deflected off a Riverside defender to give the Gauchos a 2-0 lead at halftime.
The Highlanders were kept off the scoreboard until the 68:40 mark when sophomore forward Vanessa Chanez scored on a breakaway to put Riverside on the map and make it a one-goal game.
Santa Barbara retaliated when junior forward Jen Borcich [[already mentioned Borcich, can we just use last name?]] found the back of the net for the second time off a cross from junior forward Randi Johns. [[ditto for Johns]]
“We settled for a lot of outside shots against Riverside the first time we played them,” Stumpf said. “This time we weren’t content to just go out and let it rip. We weren’t willing to settle for poor shots.”
UCSB’s pledge to take more high-probability shots is attested to by the fact that the Gauchos were out-shot by the Highlanders 17-13, a feat uncommon to this year’s Santa Barbara team.
The Gaucho defense was highlighted by the 90-minute performance of sophomore goalkeeper Jamie Considine, who ended the match with four saves. Stumpf also noted the high-intensity play of Bright as a major asset to the weekend.
“[Bright’s] a very good position player with a lot of range,” Stumpf said. “She’s a great player and I think that goes unnoticed a lot.”
Despite Sunday’s loss, Stumpf continues to be proud of a team that persisted through a five-match winless streak to end up the second-seeded team in the conference tournament
“One way of measuring success is how many times your team bumps up against their potential,” Stumpf said. “I am just so proud of them.”