With the Big West regular season drawing to a close, the UCSB women’s soccer team is doing all the right things in its bid to win the Big West Championship.
Last Friday, the Gauchos (11-5-1, 4-1-1 in the Big West) made the trek north to face UC Davis for a must-win match. Despite the long bus ride, Santa Barbara pulled out a solid 2-0 victory, thanks to goals from freshman forward Alissa Sanchez and sophomore forward Kylie McDonald. While UCSB was held scoreless for most of the first half, the Gauchos pulled ahead off Sanchez’s goal with 38 seconds left in the half.
The Gauchos are now #2 in the Big West with 13 points, trailing Long Beach State (10-4-3, 5-0-1 in the Big West) by three points. Davis bounced back to beat third place Cal Poly 1-0 yesterday, which now sits a point behind Santa Barbara. With the Mustangs mostly out of the picture, this Friday’s match between UCSB and LBSU will most likely decide the regular-season title. A Gaucho win would put both teams into a tie for first place, but Santa Barbara will own the tiebreaker with the win over the 49ers.
After making the six-hour drive up to Davis, Santa Barbara opened up the first half a bit stiff, but soon found its stride against the mediocre Aggie team. Neither team could find the net early, but the Gauchos held the advantage on paper with a 7-3 shot margin in the first half. With the half looking like it would wind down to a 0-0 draw, McDonald put forth a last-minute effort and pushed the ball down the left line. She found Sanchez in space, who ripped a quality shot, which put UCSB up 1-0 in the 45th minute.
Santa Barbara came out of the intermission ready to lock up the game, but UC Davis showed a lot of moxie in thwarting the powerful Gaucho attack. The Aggie back line held for 15 minutes, but McDonald once again made her mark on the game, this time knocking in a goal from just outside the net. Sophomore midfielder Jacqui Simon started things off with an outlet ball to junior forward Genelle Ives. McDonald snuck through the Davis defense just as Ives sent a tempting through-ball into the box. McDonald pulled free from the back line and booted in the 60th-minute goal to ice the match at 2-0.
Overall, Santa Barbara outshot the Aggies 15-9, but although it failed to find the back of the net, UC Davis certainly put some quality touches on the ball and put eight of its shots on frame. Freshman keeper Ali Cutler, who has started the last seven games after filling in for injured Tammy Lenham, played the best game of her short UCSB career, en route to recording eight saves in her third shutout of the season.
With the conference championship on the line, the Gauchos face Long Beach State on Friday in what is the most highly touted matchup this season. Friday’s match is slated for 7 p.m. in Harder Stadium.