It may have been a breakthrough season for the Gauchos, but the Big West Tournament still packed the same old result.
Having secured their first #1 seed last weekend, the Gauchos defeated #4 seed Northridge on Friday, then faced an all-too-familiar opponent in Sunday’s championship match: Cal Poly – the same team that defeated UCSB in last year’s championship match. New season, same disappointing result, as the Mustangs soured the Gauchos’ hopes of their first postseason Big West crown with a 2-0 victory.
On Friday, the Gauchos took on Northridge, a team they defeated in the regular season. Midway through the first half, sophomore forward Chandi Bickford put UCSB on the board with an unassisted goal. Shortly after, senior forward Jennifer Borcich scored a header on an open net with the assist credited to Bickford, the team’s leader in assists.
The Matadors came out much more aggressively in the second half, making the score 2-1 at the midway point. Then Borcich took over, scoring back-to-back goals in just three minutes, completing a hat trick for Borcich and making the score 4-1 at the 85-minute mark. A goal in the closing minutes by Northridge followed, making the final score 4-2 and sending UCSB to the championship game against Cal Poly.
Sunday was a meeting of two old rivals for the Big West championship. Cal Poly, which defeated fellow regular season champ Fullerton on Friday, was looking for its third straight title and fifth in the last six seasons, a run that included a victory over UCSB in last year’s championship game. The Mustangs got on the board early, converting a penalty kick opportunity 12 minutes into the game. The Gauchos were out-shot 10-3 in the first half, and their offensive woes carried over to the second half, recording just one shot. None of UCSB’s four shots scored a goal. The Mustangs added onto their 1-0 lead on a corner kick in the 65th minute, making the final score 2-0 and giving Cal Poly its third straight Big West title and an automatic bid to next week’s NCAA Tournament.
“Cal Poly is a very good team from top to bottom, and they seemed a lot more technically sound than we did,” Head Coach Paul Stumpf said. “We turned the ball over a lot and made some poor passes.”
Despite the loss, UCSB is hopeful that its great play during the season and impressive 13-6-2 overall (8-2-1 in the Big West) record, which secured them a share of the regular season Big West title, will get them an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament. The selection committee is usually more willing to give at-large bids to teams from the Pac-10 and WCC.
“We’re always hopeful; it seems like we have been sitting in this position now for five years, and each year, our case gets better,” Stumpf said. “We are more hopeful this year than ever before. This has been a really great year for us.”