For most teams, a Big West Conference second-place finish could easily bring satisfaction or even complacency, but for UCSB women’s softball, it is merely a stepping-stone. This weekend, the Gauchos dominated an exhibition tourney where they competed against Division One opponents St. Mary’s and San Jose State, as well as upstart Academy of Art University in San Francisco, just to show how hungry they still are.

The Gauchos shut out St. Mary’s and Academy of Art University, and put away San Jose State with relative ease as well. Though they sport a team that lost four of its star players from last year and has seven incoming freshmen, the goals are still lofty.

“We’re always aiming high,” second-year Head Coach Brie Galicinao said. “I think the competition this weekend was really good for the team.”

Due to changes in the team’s roster, some of those players have even had to move around to new positions to fill gaps, but that didn’t have a negative effect, as evidenced by the Gauchos’ two shutouts they posted this weekend.

“The team is strong defensively, even though they’ve been moving around a little bit,” Galicinao said.

Key players who did return also performed up to expectations. Outfielder Tiffany Wright, who was voted Big West player of the year last year, played well and second baseman and leadoff hitter Christine Ramos followed suit. Wright and Ramos are expected to be leaders for the team this season.

“They both picked up from where they left off last year,” Galicinao said. “They looked really good.”

Expectations are high for the upcoming season, which begins against Cal State Monterey Bay on Nov. 8. This year, the Big West boasts one of the strongest and deepest conferences in the nation, and will provide UCSB with a lot of quality opponents.

“There isn’t just one game we’re looking at, since there’s a lot of good competition in the Big West,” Galicinao said. “You have Long Beach, who was nationally ranked last year, then Fullerton, Cal Poly, Pacific and UC Davis too. They’re all good.”

The upcoming season is not intimidating the Gauchos, however. Instead they focus on the daily practices and on maintaining the level of competitiveness that brought them so much success last year.

“We are looking for excellence all around. [We are] doing the little things, and pushing ourselves and each other every day,” Galicinao said. “It’s still early, but it should be another exciting year. Everybody is a year older and stronger.”

For the Gauchos, the experience and strength will prove a big advantage when it comes to playing other tough squads, which will certainly be a common occurrence. Only time will tell, but if they continue playing at the level they showed was possible this weekend, it should be exciting to find out.