The UCSB women’s soccer team finally showcased its full potential over the weekend, extending its win streak to three games after clobbering Cal State Fullerton and UC Riverside.
The Gauchos’ (5-6-4 overall, 3-1 in the Big West) recent storm of goals continued with Friday’s 4-1 upset over the defending Big West champion Titans 7-6-2, 3-1-1 Big West) and a 3-0 routing of the Highlanders (7-7-1, 0-4-1 Big West) on Sunday.
In the past three victorious decisions, Santa Barbara notched a total of 11 goals while giving up only one. In contrast, it only scored 10 goals in the 12 prior games. Part of UCSB’s success has come from a switch in formation to a 4-3-3, adding another striker, while the rest has come from a team that has finally found the ball bouncing its way.
“We have just put in a lot of hard work; there was a lot of bad luck early in the season. The talent is definitely there,” sophomore forward Genelle Ives said. “The team likes this [4-3-3] system more; we get more possession up top with it. It’s providing a lot more opportunities. I mean, 11 goals in three games with one goal against is kind of ridiculous.”
UCSB broke the Titans’ three-game winning streak by striking early, and scored on both of its first two shots. Ives, who scored three goals on the weekend, started things off for UCSB by taking a pass from sophomore midfielder Katie Smith and beating the goalie in the 13th minute. A mere four minutes later, sophomore midfielder Sami Svrcek sent a short pass to senior forward Chandi Bickford at the top of the box. Santa Barbara’s leading scorer knocked in the eventual game-winner and, in doing so, tallied her seventh goal of the season.
The only Fullerton goal of the night came after a free kick was deflected by junior goalkeeper Katie Wright straight into the path of a Titan striker, who put it away into an open net. Bickford also had two assists in the second half. The first was a cross to Allie Kueny, who headed it in for the third Santa Barbara goal of the match. Bickford’s second assist set up Ives in the 80th minute for her second goal in the game.
“We played exceptionally well on Friday; for 70 minutes we really dominated,” Head Coach Paul Stumpf said. “Fullerton beat us pretty good last year, and we play them so many times. The fact that we know them so well makes us want to beat them that much more. Everyone loves beating their friends.”
Stumpf said he believes that the new Gaucho formation has at least been a partial reason for their success.
“Clearly, the extra striker is making a difference. You make a significant change in the system and you win three games in a row, and you made the right decision,” Stumpf said.
UCSB kept its momentum going against Riverside in a contest that Stumpf described as physical and very ugly. The superb Gaucho defense, led by central backs Rachael Ritchey and Kandice McLaughlin, stood tough against the grinding play of the Highlanders, as the Gauchos recorded their fifth shutout of the season. McLaughlin also contributed one of the Gaucho goals, acing a free kick much like her goal last week.
“Our main goal is to keep shutting teams out,” McLaughlin said. “We played really well Friday, and it gave us a lot of confidence to beat such a good team.”
Ives and Kueny also recorded goals in the game to solidify the win. Riverside’s aggressive, dogging style caused trouble for UCSB, as the Highlanders keep constant pressure unlike most other teams.
“We didn’t handle the pressure as well as I would have like it, but we did what needed to do to win, and that’s the bottom line,” said Stumpf. “We were playing pretty before and losing, so I frankly don’t care how it looks as long as we win.”
Wins against such solid competition have showcased not only UCSB’s physical skill, but their mental fortitude as well. With such a frustrating preseason, the Gauchos have kept working and they have begun to show how good of a team they are.
“A week ago we were not looking good and we could have folded up, but we didn’t,” Stumpf said. “I’m so glad that the team is finally being rewarded because they have been really consistent in their performance all year.”