Dominance is a word used with caution in the sporting world, mainly because it rarely lasts. Most teams are dominant for a season and then the rest of the league catches up. But the UCSB women’s club soccer team seems to be an exception. The team, led by Head Coach Todd Heil, is 9-0 this season after winning the national championship last year.
The Gauchos recently played in the UCSB Invitational, which was composed of 15 teams from Colorado, Arizona and California. They played five games in that tournament and won all five. Even more impressive than the wins, however, was UCSB’s 29 goals scored to just one allowed. UCSB played UC Riverside first and dominated in a 12-0 victory. The Gauchos’ next opponent was the University of Colorado Black squad. Colorado managed to score on the Gauchos, but UCSB won the game by a score of 5-1. The Gauchos then beat USC 5-0 before defeating UCLA 3-0 in the semifinals. The Gauchos then faced off with San Diego State in the finals and beat them in a tidy 5-0 match.
“I think what we did best at the Invitational was start each game by setting the tone early,” Heil said. “We started each game with intensity and didn’t allow our opponents time to settle into the game.”
Despite the team’s great play, Coach Heil knows that there is always room for improvement.
“Two things presented themselves during the invitational that we need to work on,” Heil said. “First is our technique and ball skills. We need to be more confident in our ability to possess the ball. Second is our fitness. As we approach regionals and nationals we need to be fit. We need to be able to play six games in three days.”
UCSB’s play during the tournament is representative of their entire season so far. The undefeated Gauchos have scored 42 goals and have allowed just one. Needless to say, Coach Heil is pleased with his team’s play.
“Considering the fact that we’re the defending national champions and having a huge target on our back, we’ve played very well,” Heil said. “We’ve met every challenge this season so far and are currently 9-0 with 42 goals for and one against. We still need to face every game with a passion to win and realize that every team we play is hoping to make their season by beating us. It’s important for us to remain hungry and understand that we can’t just win by stepping on the field.”
Senior midfielder Shelly Murphy shares her coach’s sentiments.
“[Being undefeated] gives us a ton of confidence, but we still have the national champions mark on our back and everybody wants to be us so we have to be mentally prepared for every game,” Murphy said.
The Gauchos’ great play on offense and defense has a great deal to do with their undefeated record so far. However, according to Murphy, there is one more factor that is less obvious but is perhaps more important.
“I think we’ve been successful because a lot of our team has returned from last year, so we’re doing a good job connecting as a team,” Murphy said.
Coach Heil won’t make any definite predictions for the rest of the season, but he knows his team, which includes many members of last year’s championship team, has a chance to repeat.
“I think we’re a tough team to score on,” Heil said. “Defensively, we return everyone on our back line, and that has helped us remain consistent in the back. Offensively, we return a great deal in scoring prowess. These two elements combined make us a tough team to beat. I think in order for us to repeat as national champions, three components must fall into place. First, we must be playing our best soccer at the right time, at nationals. Second, it’s important for us to remain as healthy as possible, which is why being fit is so important. Finally, we need to get a little lucky. In order to win six games in three days, you need a little luck.”
The Gauchos next test will come on Saturday when they go on the road to play CSU Northridge.
“Unfortunately, we’ve never played CSUN and therefore don’t know much about them,” Heil said. “We can expect them to play one of their best games in an attempt to knock us off, and it’s important for us to take the game seriously.”