The UCSB women’s soccer team is heating up just in time to carry a four-game win streak into a Pacific Northwest tour that has the Gauchos facing a pair of tough opponents.
Santa Barbara (3-3-2 overall) first faces #18 Washington State (5-1-1) this afternoon. The Cougars are ranked in most national polls, but their only loss came from UN Las Vegas, a team that UCSB recently battled to a 1-1 split. The test continues on Sunday when UCSB faces Gonzaga (5-2), who is in the middle of a four-game winning streak.
This weekend is the last chance for the Gauchos to solidify their game plan before starting Big West conference play next weekend. Solidarity was an issue early in the season for the injury-plagued Santa Barbara team, as the loss of many key players left the starting lineup in question. Currently, 18 different players have gotten a nod to start, seven of whom are freshmen, and 26 of the 32 women on the roster have gotten playing time so far this season.
With many of the injuries affecting players on the attacking half of the field, the Gauchos have had to look to unlikely sources for offensive production. The story of the year so far has been senior midfielder Romy Barber, who leads the Gauchos with three goals in an unheard of 33.3 shooting percentage. Barber had previously started only four games and scored a single goal in her career, but she has helped fill the gaps in the UCSB attack in a stellar fashion.
Following Barber’s lead is one of the best freshman classes that Santa Barbara has had in recent years. Half of the Gauchos to notch goals are freshmen, including forward Kailyn Kugler, who has scored two goals to join Barber as the only Gaucho with multiple scores on the year. Following Kugler’s freshman charge are forwards Jacqui Simon and Brooke Salyer who have each found the net once.
Strong defense has been a Santa Barbara trademark in recent memory, and this year’s squad is no exception. Anchored by senior goalkeeper Katie Wright, the Gaucho back has only allowed 0.91 goals against. Additionally, Wright has recorded three shutouts in eight games so far this season.
Today’s game is slated for 3 p.m. at Washington State’s Lower Soccer Field, while Sunday’s match is scheduled to begin at noon at Gonzaga’s Martin Field.