There is no easy way to say goodbye.
Even with the prospect of taking over the Big West lead, the 7 p.m. games against Pacific today and first-place Northridge on Sunday will mark a bittersweet farewell to four seniors as they play in the final home games of their careers.
“It really sucks going into your final two [home] games because it’s probably the last time we’ll ever play really good soccer,” senior Randi Johns said.
Saying goodbye this weekend will be forwards Jennifer Borcich and Johns, midfielder Molly Martin and defender Cinthia Ruiz. Borcich has twice been selected as the Big West Offensive Player of the Year.
However, the two-game homestand will be no cushy send-off for the Santa Barbara seniors as Ruiz and the revitalized defense will face the task of holding the Matadors on Sunday, who have scored at least one goal in each of their past 16 matches.
“We want to just make sure that we are all defending, and not only defending, but also get an opportunity to go forward and get into the attack as well,” Ruiz said.
Although Northridge currently has a hold on first place in the Big West, it has played one more game than the second-place Gauchos and only has a two-point advantage. UCSB has just passed the halfway point in the season and still has four of the nine league games to play.
Pacific also poses a threat to Santa Barbara’s run at a league title. The Tigers currently sit in a dangerous fifth-place position in the Big West, right in front of sixth-place Cal Poly, which tied the Gauchos last weekend.
“We are going to do everything we can to win [tonight], but that might mean expending a decent amount of energy,” UCSB Head Coach Paul Stumpf said. “We only have 13 fully healthy field players.”
Despite the hardships of injuries and the prospect of exhaustion heading into a crucial weekend, the Gauchos remain the only unbeaten team in Big West play.
The defensive play of freshman goalie Catherine Burson, who stepped in for junior Jamie Considine and weathered a 40-shot barrage from Cal Poly last weekend, helped keep Santa Barbara right at the top of the league standings.
“We are back to full strength in the goal; we have Jamie back playing. Catherine is also healthy and coming off a great weekend, and so we haven’t made a final decision as to who will start [tonight],” Stumpf said.