With an eight-match season, the Big West race is always tight this time of year, and 2007 is no exception. Six teams are still battling each other for the four playoff spots as they head into their final weekend of the season.
The UCSB women’s soccer team still has a good shot at getting into the postseason, but it will take a solid performance this weekend. The Gauchos (6-8-4 overall, 3-2-1 in the Big West) head to Cal State Northridge (4-10-2, 1-4-1 Big West) tonight, and if they win they will be battling Long Beach State (11-6-0, 4-2 Big West) for the coveted last postseason spot.
“Our plan is to score more than other team, it’s that simple,” Head Coach Paul Stumpf said. “If we lose on Friday, we’re done. We’re trying to have fun, we just have to play fast and loose because that’s when we play our best.”
Sunday’s game against Long Beach most likely will decide which team makes it into the playoffs. Santa Barbara heads into the weekend with 10 points, trailing the 49ers by two. With so much pressure on the line, the game should prove to be a very physical, intense contest. In matches like this, the win usually goes to the team that can calm down and play its own game. Handling the pressure is going to be a big focus for the Gauchos.
UCSB has the advantage of the easier opponent tonight, as the Matadors are one of the weaker squads around. On the other hand, the 49ers have to face Cal Poly (7-8-1, 5-1 Big West), which leads the Big West and is in the middle of a six-game winning streak. However, with so much riding on tonight’s game, the Gauchos will have to be very careful not to ignore the Matadors.
“We cannot look past Northridge,” Stumpf said. “Northridge is a tough team; it’s a local rivalry and a lot of these girls know each other. We are making a huge mistake if we look past Friday.”
What hurts the Gauchos this weekend is the road: Santa Barbara has a 1-4-2 travel record. Luckily, Santa Barbara won’t have to go very far to play this weekend. Unlike a rough Pacific Northwest tour earlier this season, both games are fairly local. The key to the Gauchos success all season has been getting their offense going. With a solid back line, Santa Barbara has been very difficult to score on all season.
“We’ve played 18 games this season and we’ve only given up 17 goals,” Stumpf said. “We are a very difficult team to beat. We are just trying to get the team comfortable with the ball in and around the goal so that they won’t just shoot from 18 to 20 [yards] when they could problem solve and maybe shoot from 6 to 8 [yards].”
This weekend will decide how much of a reward the Gauchos get for their hard work this season. If they play solidly, then they go into the postseason with a fresh shot at a championship.
“I think the most important thing is that the kids know what’s on the line,” Stumpf said. “I am confident in this crew. I do know that they have played 18 games. I know that we defend very well. We just need to get a result.”