The UCSB women’s soccer team doesn’t need a #1 national ranking to have a championship on its mind.

The past four years have seen the Gauchos lose the Big West Conference championship in the last weekend of the season. This year, however, UCSB is heading into its conference season with a new depth to its team and new faces on the sideline.

Santa Barbara returns 13 players from last year’s team including 2003 Big West Offensive Player of the Year senior forward Jennifer Borcich. Borcich has been the leader in points and goals in the Big West twice in the past three years. After 10 preseason games, Borcich leads the team with 16 points on six goals and four assists and looks to be an increasing source of leadership this season.

“Jen Borcich has been doing better,” Head Coach Paul Stumpf said. “She had a tough preseason but she has been making gains in her leadership and attitude.”

Borcich won’t be alone up front. Joining her on the attack is senior Randi Johns and sophomores Allie Kueny and Chandi Bickford. The four have combined for 13 goals and 16 assists on the season.

“Those four are the ones who get their names in the paper because they are scoring goals because of their positions on the team. They all bring a competitive spirit and good pace because they are all pretty athletic,” Stumpf said of the quartet. “But we also have other players like [senior goalkeeper] Jamie [Considine] who had a great two games last weekend. [Sophomore midfielder] Lindsay Steinriede played very well in the midfield.”

Considine brings three years of experience guarding the goal to the team. The San Diego native has posted two shutouts and four wins in the preseason, after going 10-5-3 last season with a goals-against average under 1.0.

This season, she will need the strength her record boasts but will have help from a new face. Considine has a worthy backup in freshman Catherine Burson. The new keeper earned her stripes in the past few weeks starting three games and getting a shutout win over the University of San Francisco.

Including Burson, UCSB lists 10 freshmen in its ranks and 16 total underclassmen. Since he became the Gauchos’ coach, Stumpf has coached a team full of inexperienced players to a respectable 52-36-9 record.

“We’ve always had to start at least three or four freshman or sophomores,” Stumpf said. “We get them out there in the preseason and now, going into Big West, they have 10 games under their belts.”

UCSB takes five preseason wins into its Big West season, which kicks off Friday night when the Gauchos host Long Beach State. With the conference championship in its sights, UCSB must get off to a good start and continue to play well throughout the season.

Last season the Big West debuted its Women’s Soccer Tournament, in which the top four teams at the end of the regular season earned berths into the conference tournament. The winner of the tournament earns the conference’s only automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.

“We’re going to need more consistency than we had in the preseason,” Stumpf said on winning the Big West regular season title. “We just want to finish in the top four, and then it’s two games to determine the champion and anything can happen in those two games.”

After losing all three of his assistant coaches last year, Stumpf brought in Charles Adair, Kristen St. Clair and Todd Heil to work beside him. With the versatility and depth of this year’s team, the four coaches will have lots of talent to work with.

“We really just want to start and play the best 11 players that we can,” Stumpf said. “I never think they’re ready, but they always end up proving me wrong.”