The final weekend for the UCSB women’s soccer team was much like the whole season: good effort, bad results. With a 1-0 loss to Cal State Northridge (5-10-3 overall, 2-4-2 in the Big West) on Friday, the Gauchos (6-9-4, 3-3-1 Big West) were all but eliminated from the Big West Tournament. Yesterday’s 2-1 loss to Long Beach State sealed Santa Barbara’s fate.
“We would love to keep going, but unfortunately we’ve been hurting,” Head Coach Paul Stumpf said. “It’s been a grind since the middle of August, so I think the girls are tired.”
It’s a disappointment any time a team’s season ends early, and the Gauchos feel no different. The disappointment isn’t necessarily in their record; it’s much more in how they got there. Eight of UCSB’s 10 losses were decided by a single goal, and there were more than a couple games that even the Gaucho opponents felt Santa Barbara should have won.
“I can’t tell you how many coaches said, ‘Paul, I love how your team plays. Your record doesn’t match how dangerous you guys are,'” Stumpf said. “There were a handful of games, probably four, that we were the better team. I figure that if you outwork the other teams, eventually things will fall your way, but it just didn’t happen like that this season.”
The disappointment has been tempered by a great deal of optimism about the future. With many of the projected starters sidelined due to injuries at the beginning of the season, the Gauchos were not picked to be very successful this season. The younger players were forced to step up and fill in, and that they did quite well. Towards the end of the season, Santa Barbara’s freshmen were playing like upperclassmen, and that kind of experience should prove invaluable next year when combined with the return of injured players.
“A little optimism has to be mixed in there; I think we will definitely be a deeper team next year,” Stumpf said. “Now we know exactly what we need to spend most of our time working on in the spring season. We need to spend more time shooting.”
Stumpf’s mixed feelings mesh well with the ups and downs of the season. Santa Barbara created a lot of great chances for themselves this year but had trouble capitalizing consistently. Combined with all the injuries, it was a hardly a normal season for the Gauchos.
“The best description that I could give you about this year was that it was a bit odd,” Stumpf said. “To have so many injuries, to outplay teams and fail to get a result, it’s all just very odd to me.”
In the end, the result of this season can’t take away from the potential this young squad has shown for next year. The Gauchos have shown that they have the work ethic of a great team, and if they keep on that track, Stumpf feels they will be.
“There is nothing I can do about the past, and I’m very optimistic about the future,” Stumpf said. “I love working with this team, they have so much passion. I’m looking forward to getting going again.”