Although this weekend was not one of the best this season for the Gauchos, a win over Cal State Northridge and a tie against Pacific were enough to guarantee a spot in the Big West tournament for the UCSB women’s soccer team.
The Gauchos (6-6-5 overall, 4-1-1 in the Big West) have overcome all of their nonconference troubles in their ascent to the top of conference standings, all while knocking off many top teams in the league. Their main goal for the season has been to get to the tournament, and to lock it with the momentum that they have will be a big advantage heading into the postseason.
“The biggest factor is momentum. I think we are playing really well and we don’t want to break that up,” UCSB Assistant Coach Todd Heil said. “In our last five games, we have played tremendous soccer and we just need to keep that going into the conference tournament.”
The 2-0 win against the Matadors (10-8-0 overall, 3-4-0 Big West) Friday night was another display of the Gauchos’ skill, as they controlled the match for most of the night. The first goal came in just the fourth minute after senior forward Chandi Bickford drove through the Northridge defense and passed to junior defender Katrina Wright, who took a shot at the top of the box. After the ball had been deflected twice, senior forward Allie Kueny chipped a shot over the goalie for the eventual game-winner.
The Gauchos controlled the ball for much of the rest of the match, and their passing and ball movement was crisp. The Gaucho victory was sealed in the 72nd minute when Kueny received an open shot and put it past the goalkeeper for her second of the night.
“I’m really pleased with our play, especially the defending,” UCSB Head Coach Paul Stumpf said. “We went from pretty and losing to kind of ugly and winning. Now we are just trying to find the middle ground.”
The win on Friday left the Gauchos one point away from clinching a spot in the postseason, and that point came with the tie Sunday against Pacific (10-5-2 overall, 2-4-1 Big West). The match, with a final score of 0-0 in double overtime, was frustrating for Santa Barbara because the team dominated Pacific the whole game.
The Gauchos out-shot the Tigers 26-7, with 12 shots on goal versus Pacific’s one. The Tiger goalkeeper was kept busy and had 11 saves, while the Gaucho defense protected junior goalkeeper Katie Wright, who only needed to make one save.
“It went well today expect for the score, unfortunately we couldn’t put them in the back of the net,” Heil said. “We had great opportunities, [but] when a goalkeeper makes double digits saves we are making her work hard.”
UCSB had a lot of good scoring chances, the best of which came in the 95th minute when sophomore forward Genelle Ives drove to the right corner and passed a ball to an open Kueny inside the box. Kueny, who had only the keeper to beat, rifled the ball off the crossbar and the deflection was cleared by a Tiger defender.
The Gaucho defense has continued to be rock solid and has now allowed only 14 goals in its past 17 matches. During their current five-game unbeaten streak, the Gauchos have had four shutouts and only given up one goal.
“We have conceded one goal in our last five matches,” Stumpf said. “We are defending exceptionally well.”
The Gauchos’ final home game is a nonconference match this Thursday against St. Mary’s, and their final conference game of the season finds UCSB in San Luis Obispo against postseason contender Cal Poly on Saturday.