With long travels, one-goal games, and a whole lot of overtime drama, the UCSB women’s soccer team has spent the last two weeks living the life of an elite soccer team. Sunday the Gauchos (7-4-0) bounced back from a pair of tough losses to grab a win at the University of Arizona (6-4-0) thanks to a 96th minute goal from junior forward Genelle Ives.
The Gauchos have been riding the waves of a long roadtrip that has sent them to Arizona this past weekend and Hawaii the week before. After dropping the championship game of the Outrigger Hotels and Resorts Soccer Classic 2-1 in overtime to Hawaii last week, Santa Barbara dropped a 1-0 decision to Arizona State on Friday. Sunday, UCSB pushed things into their second overtime in three games at Arizona, but the emerging duo of Ives and sophomore forward Kylie McDonald snatched the win with four minutes left in the first overtime period. McDonald sent a ball to Ives’ feet eight yards into the box, and Ives ripped a shot to notch her team-leading fourth goal of the year.
The UCSB attack dominated Arizona on Sunday, outshooting them 18-6, including a 9-3 shots on goal margin. In the last three games – all of which were decided by one goal – the Gauchos have gone 1-2 but have outshot opponents 49-25. Not only has Santa Barbara taken more shots, they have taken better shots, with 48.9 percent of their shots on frame versus their opponents’ even 40 percent.
The Santa Barbara attack has been impressive all season, but on the other side of the pitch, the defense has been very solid. Santa Barbara has recorded two shutouts in their last four games, and only gave up one goal on the weekend despite being forced to replace injured sophomore goalkeeper Tammy Lenham with freshman Ali Cutler. Cutler looked far more mature than a first-year in both of her matches, recording seven saves in the weekend alongside her first full-game shutout.
Arizona marked the final game of the Gauchos’ nonconference schedule, and SB must now prepare to tackle the Big West. Ranked at the top of the conference in preseason polls, UCSB currently sits tied for second place with Long Beach State, and just .031 separates them from UC Davis at the top. The Gauchos’ good record may in fact be a bit misleading, as Head Coach Paul Stumpf tends to set up tough preseason schedules for his team.
As it currently stands, the Gauchos are in a great position to make moves this season in their goal to win the Big West Tournament and score an automatic bid into NCAA postseason play. Santa Barbara, which have won six of its last seven league openers, begins Big West play this week by continuing their road trip, facing UC Riverside Friday and Cal State Fullerton on Sunday. Kickoff for Friday’s match is slated for 6 p.m. in Riverside.