After a tough three weeks on the road that resulted in a 3-3 record, the UCSB women’s soccer team is finally home to rumble with Big West foe Cal State Northridge tonight. The Gauchos (8-5 overall, 1-1 in the Big West) went through Hawaii and Arizona before cruising Southern California last weekend for their Big West openers. Head Coach Paul Stumpf said that there’s no place like home.
“It is so, so nice not to have packed my bag again, gathered 26 people together and fly all over and sleep in hotels,” Stumpf said.
The road has not been particularly kind to Santa Barbara, with every road weekend ending with a win and a loss. While the team has dominated most games on paper, outshooting every team they faced, there have been some tough last-minute losses. Still, staying at .500 on the road is a good thing for a team that only won one road game last year.
“Considering last year we won only one game on the road, we’ve already won four times that many this year, so that’s good,” Stumpf said. “I definitely think there were missed opportunities against Fullerton, when we should have been up 1- or 2-0 before they scored in the 77th minute. Against Hawaii, we had a pair of potentially game-winning sitters in overtime that we missed. Legitimately, we could be sitting 10-3 right now.”
UCSB will face a Matador team that is 5-5-1 but hasn’t won in its last five matches. Tonight will be Northridge’s Big West opener, and the team will certainly be looking to start off the year by beating the preseason favorite Gauchos. In any case, CSUN is a far better team than it was last year, and will certainly give Santa Barbara a game.
“From what we hear, Northridge is more athletic and a better soccer team than they have been in the past,” Stumpf said. “It’s going to be a tough matchup. They play pretty aggressively and like to counterattack, so we’re going to have to be careful.”
Although the Gauchos have outshot most of their opponents this year, their losses have often been due to an inability to finish. Stumpf wants his players taking shots when they have them, and that’s resulted in a dominant Gaucho attack that has recorded 23 goals on the season from 11 different players. In the end, Stumpf said that if UCSB puts itself in the position to take quality shots, it’s going to win most of its games.
“We don’t want them ever to turn down taking a good shot,” Stumpf said. “We’ve created good looks, and we have managed to put a lot of them away. Finishing is the hardest thing to do, that’s why the players who can [finish] get paid the big bucks.”
Tonight, the Gauchos’ game plan will be the same as it’s been all year: outwork and outshoot the other team. With a good reserves in the attack and midfield combined with having the rest of the weekend off, Santa Barbara will be running hard tonight in its first game in Harder in almost a month. Although Northridge should be pumped up for its big opening night, UCSB will try to control the game from the get-go.
“It should be a big boost for our team, it’s a one-game weekend and it’s a Friday night, so let’s fly at them out of the gates,” Stumpf said. “We like the team that we have and we want to impose our style of play on them.”
Kickoff for tonight’s match is scheduled for 7 in Harder Stadium.