The UCSB women’s soccer team was finally rewarded for its work this Sunday in a 4-0 blowout of UC Irvine after losing a controversial 1-0 match to Long Beach State on Friday night.
Sunday marked the end of Santa Barbara’s (3-6-4 overall, 1-1-0 in the Big West) offensive drought, in which it scored only two goals in the last five games. The Gauchos had been playing solid soccer all season, but their shots on goal had a tough time finding the net. Finishing was no problem Sunday, as senior forward Allie Kueny struck in the third minute after a ball deflected by a UCI (3-9-0 overall, 0-3-0 Big West) defender found her in the box. Kueny beat one defender with a move to the left and sent the ball past the Anteater goalie to notch her first goal of the season.
The Gauchos continued to dominate UCI in the second half with a flurry of three goals in only 11 minutes. The scoring run was started by junior defender Kandice McLaughlin, who took a free kick from about thirty yards out, bending the ball over the defensive wall and into the upper left corner of the net.
“It’s a really good feeling to score, especially when you are a defender,” said McLaughlin. “It’s a really big confidence builder to be able to finally score.”
The first of two goals for senior forward Chandi Bickford followed four minutes after McLaughlin’s goal. Bickford passed to sophomore forward Genelle Ives who was left with just the goalie to beat. Instead of taking the one-on-one, Ives passed back to Bickford as she made a run to the box.
Mirroring the previous play, sophomore midfielder Michelle Russell set up Bickford for her second goal in seven minutes. Bickford – who leads the team with six goals this season – later credited her teammates’ assists for her feat.
Santa Barbara’s stellar offense was not the only positive part of the day, as the Gaucho defense controlled the Anteaters. UCI only had three shots in the match, all of which were on frame. Junior goalkeeper Katie Wright recorded three saves, culminating with a penalty-kick save in the 88th minute that robbed UCI of its best chance to score.
“We really needed this, it was getting old after a while,” sophomore defender Rachael Ritchey said. “It was nice knowing that we were playing well, but it gets to us. I think it will be a huge confidence booster for our attack, which is good since we are going to be away this next weekend.”
Friday’s game against Long Beach State (11-2-0 overall, 3-0-0 Big West) was far more disappointing, as UCSB dealt with the same problems it has fought with all season. The Gauchos were evenly matched with the 49ers for the entire game, a good sign for UCSB’s future since Long Beach was predicted to win the Big West in preseason polls.
The Gauchos almost scored first, in the 59th minute, when senior midfielder Darci Gwartz passed to an open Kueny, who put it away to take the lead. However, in a controversial decision, Kueny was called offside and the goal was reversed. Then, in the 73rd minute, Long Beach notched the game-winner.
“I’m getting tired of saying the same thing,” said Head Coach Paul Stumpf. “It’s extremely disappointing to keep playing so hard and not get rewarded.”
UCSB hits the road this week, heading to Fullerton on Friday and Riverside on Sunday.