Although the UCSB women’s club soccer team lost its first conference game in a 2-0 decision against UCLA last weekend, the Gauchos enter national championship competition today as the top-ranked team in its region.

“We are the team with the target on our back. All the teams come here to beat us,” junior captain and outside defender Lindsay Lack said. “We have to be ready for that with every game.”

Santa Barbara moves into a pool of top-seeded teams but will not face the Bruins again until the spring season.

“The game really put things into perspective for us,” senior forward Marina Karzag said. “It was like a reality check that taught us we need to play each game as its own, which is really important in helping us prepare for upcoming nationals. We are going to give each game our 100 percent.”

UCSB will play regional champs James Madison University and Michigan State on the opening day of the three-day tourney.

“We have one of the hardest pools,” Karzag said. “We play the two hardest teams on the very first day. We need to win at least one of these games to stay in the competition.”

If Santa Barbara is victorious, it will meet Princeton University the following day. In the recent past, UCSB has finished second, third and fourth, but this year’s team is comprised of a number of seniors who have been playing together for four years.

“This is the year to do it,” Lack said. “We have the experience and we play well together.”