Facing a crucial conference weekend, the UCSB women’s soccer team is working to continue its recent hot streak, as it hosts Cal State Northridge and Pacific.
The Gauchos (5-6-4 overall, 3-1-0 in the Big West) are currently in a three-game win streak that has vaulted them near the top of the Big West and in which they have outscored opponents 11-1. The Matadors are tied for second place with the Gauchos, and Pacific is a close third. Wins against these teams will solidify Santa Barbara’s spot in the upper portion of the standings and immensely increase the Gauchos’ chances of making the postseason.
The Gaucho offense, no longer a weak spot, has left a wake of destruction in its path, and the squad’s 2.75 goals per game average in conference play handily beats all other teams in the Big West. Led by three forwards, sophomore Genelle Ives and seniors Chandi Bickford and Allie Kueny, UCSB has dispelled all doubts about its ability to score. The question now is whether or not this explosion of offense is going to target on the Gauchos as the team to beat.
“Teams are going to be looking to take us out,” sophomore defender Rachael Ritchey said. “Pacific is basically just a spoiler, and a lot of teams are gunning for us now.”
The Northridge game Friday night will be a test for Santa Barbara. The Matadors are very fast, and their speed is quite capable of overwhelming teams. To counter it, UCSB has spent a lot of time working on making good touches and passing quickly, a strategy that will neutralize the Northridge advantage if executed properly.
“I think we will do well [against Northridge]; we have been working a lot on our connecting [as well as] connecting quickly,” Ritchey said. “They are pretty fast, but if we can connect with our passes it shouldn’t be a problem.
As is the usual case with quality teams, the match will be decided by who comes out and plays the best game. With such evenly matched teams, the game should be very entertaining to watch.
“They are going to be really tough,” said Ives. “I know some of the girls on Northridge, and they are going to be pretty solid.”
Sunday’s game against Pacific is also a huge game, but for more personal reasons. Last year’s meeting between the two teams at Pacific ended with a 3-2 victory for the Tigers after they converted three of four penalty kicks. The Gauchos were frustrated by this loss, and their first chance for revenge is coming Sunday. With Pacific still hanging on in the Big West playoff race, a win for the Gauchos will help knock the Tigers out and secure their spot in the postseason.
“The [Pacific] game is a big, big game for us,” said Ritchey. “It’s a big rivalry game, especially after last year’s game.”
Friday’s game will start at 7 p.m. under the lights of Harder Stadium, and Sunday’s game is slated for 1 p.m.