A penalty kick shootout is an especially unpleasant means of deciding any soccer game, but especially a national championship. Surprisingly, the UCSB men’s soccer team was not the only Division I soccer squad to discover this the hard way last December.
Just days prior to the men’s championship game in Carson, Calif., the UCLA women also fell victim to Notre Dame in sudden death penalty kicks.
The #4 Bruins (8-1 overall) are back in the business of winning games this season and tonight will confront a young, sick and battered UCSB (5-5 overall) at Harder Stadium at 7.
“I don’t think [UCLA] has any weaknesses,” UCSB Head Coach Paul Stumpf said. “I think we counted eight different players they have on national teams, [including] six on the United States’ team. We will have to play absolutely our best soccer.”
The Bruins return this season as one of the country’s best teams, despite losing a national championship last year.
“[Tonight] is just another step in climbing the mountain for us,” Stumpf said. “If [this game] can somehow make us a better team [before we enter league play], then it will have served its purpose. We are just so injured and so sick right now.”
Of the injured players whose impairments will hinder the Gaucho’s efforts tonight are three starters: sophomore defenders Kathleen Prieto and Jessie Steinberg and junior forward Chandi Bickford. Senior midfielder Kristyn Bright will also sit this one out to heal her wounds.
“I’m feeling a little bit snake-bit because of our injuries and illnesses,” Stumpf said. “There will be a lot of freshmen getting invaluable college soccer experience [against one of the nation’s best tonight as a result of the injuries].”
As if the odds in tonight’s match didn’t seem daunting enough, playing on their home field may turn out to be anything but an advantage for the Gauchos.
“It is nice to be home after spending 24 hours on busses over the last weekend, but we have one of the larger fields [around], which will actually benefit UCLA a little more than us,” Stumpf said.
As the team readies for its third and fourth matches in seven days, there is an end in sight. Santa Barbara will have two days to rest following Friday’s home game against Davis at 7 p.m.