After close to a month on the road, coming home starts to sound pretty good. For the UCSB women’s soccer team, coming home was exactly what the doctor ordered, as the team put on a show for the home crowd with a 3-0 throttling of Cal State Northridge Friday night. The fans welcomed Santa Barbara back in style, with the UCSB’s track and cross country teams filling up the stands to give the road-weary Gauchos some strong support.
“I would definitely like to thank and identify the UCSB track and cross country teams that came and were loud and enthusiastic throughout the whole game,” Head Coach Paul Stumpf said. “I can tell for a fact that it really brought some excitement and energy to our team.”
With only one game on the weekend, the Gaucho game plan was to simply come out of the gates as aggressively as possible. They couldn’t have followed the script any better, with junior forward Genelle Ives netting an assertive first-minute header. Sophomore forward Kylie McDonald brought the ball down the left side and whipped a cross to Ives, who headed the ball on frame. Northridge keeper Leah Elliott got a paw on the ball, but it carried enough momentum to lazily cross the line to put the Gauchos up 1-0 just 54 seconds in. The goal was Ives’ fifth of the year.
“[Scoring in the first minute] is always awesome,” Stumpf said. “That’s even better than we could hope for.”
Stumpf said before the game that he was concerned about the Northridge counter-attack. With UCSB committed to coming out with a very attacking mindset, the Matadors could theoretically have had many opportunities to attack in transition, which is their main offensive threat. However, the threat was effectively neutralized for the entire opening 20 minutes, as the Gauchos monopolized possession and barely let the ball out of their attacking half.
The pressure paid off in the 26th minute, when junior midfielder Jacqui Simon sent a clean cross from the right side of the box into fellow junior midfielder Sarah Stoltz. Stoltz, who was clearing through traffic, found the cross and sent a perfect header over the keeper and just under the crossbar to put SB up 2-0. Stumpf said that confidence in the Gaucho defense allowed the rest of the team to press CSUN as hard as they wanted.
“Getting goals has been the focus for us this year; our defense is very good, so we can focus more on the attacking half,” Stumpf said. “We actually switched up our defensive scheme a little bit; we played a third person behind the center back as a stopper. We decided to play a more disciplined style today, and it really held off the counter.”
The decidedly one-sided match was finally pushed out of Northridge’s reach in the 42nd, with a double-assist goal that epitomized the Gauchos’ emphasis on offensive connectivity. Senior midfielder Michelle Russell took the ball past midfield, and sent a deep through-ball to the right corner for freshman forward Alissa Sanchez. The streaking Sanchez showed off a stellar pace in tracking the ball down, and she quickly sent pretty cross to the left post, finding junior midfielder Kacey Doherty. Doherty rammed in the header to bring a 3-0 lead into the locker room.
“I think all three of our goals were set up off of crosses,” Stumpf said. “The quality of crossing was very good tonight. It’s something we’ve been spending a lot of time at the end of practices working on, and it looked like it has paid off tonight.”
After the break, Stumpf sent out the full starting 11, despite being up by three goals. With a full weekend of rest, Santa Barbara wanted to both make sure that Northridge could not climb back in, and give the Gaucho attack more time to work together on a night that saw them hitting on all cylinders. Finally, after around 60 minutes of dominating play from UCSB, Stumpf started to cycle in reserve players, who got a lot of valuable game-time experience. While Santa Barbara continued to play very well with the second and third lines in, CSUN calmed down a bit towards the end of the match and managed to stop the bleeding at 3-0.
“Our mindset is that it’s not over at 3-0, with 45 minutes left to play,” Stumpf said. “With 30 minutes left, we might start to rotate in our bench and get the younger players some more experience. But in those first 15 minutes [of the second half], we are going to come out attacking.”
Both on the field and on paper, the Gauchos demolished the Matadors. UCSB out-shot CSUN 19-5, and the Santa Barbara defense held Northridge to just one shot on frame in an absolutely stellar game for the back line. Freshman keeper Ali Cutler made the one save she needed to en route to recording yet another shutout.
“We actually switched up our defensive scheme a little bit; we played a third person behind the center back as a stopper,” Stumpf said. “We decided to play a more disciplined style today, and it really held off the counter.”
The Gauchos will stay at home this Friday with a match against Pacific. Kick-off is slated for 7 p.m. in Harder Stadium.