This past weekend the UCSB women’s club soccer team took a trip down to Long Beach for the Regionals tournament, hoping to at least make the finals and thereby secure a bid to Nationals. The Gauchos accomplished this goal and more, as they beat San Diego State University in the finals 2-1.
The Gauchos first two games in the tournament were in pool play. They beat UC San Diego 3-2 in the first game and then dismantled Stanford in a 4-0 victory in the second game. In the semi-finals they played UCLA and were able to beat the Bruins by a tidy score of 2-0. Their toughest game came against SDSU in the finals. The Aztecs played the Gauchos to a tie through regulation and most of the first golden goal overtime. But in the final 30 seconds of that overtime, junior forward Alyssa Doniak was able to put the winning goal into the net, securing the regional championship. Sophomore forward Allie Browne had the assist.
The Gauchos are now 14-0 overall and have outscored their opponents 63-4. However, some of their games this weekend were much closer than their games have been in the previous part of the season. Head Coach Todd Heil felt the difference was two-fold.
“There are two reasons a couple of the games were a bit closer than some of the past games,” Heil said. “First, all teams were playing with a heightened sense of urgency. With a bid with a bid on the line for Nationals, every team brought their ‘A’ game. The second reason would be the field dimensions; it was easier for teams to defend on a smaller pitch.”
Despite playing closer than they are used to, when all was said and done the Gauchos stood a step above the rest, as they have all season long. After a week of working on ball control and fitness in practice, Heil was pleased with what he saw out of his team.
“Leading up to Regionals, our focus has been on ball control and fitness,” Heil said. “Unfortunately, the fields that were used at CSU Long Beach for Regionals were extremely small and contained very little grass. This made ball possession difficult and we had to change our style of play and play more direct to adapt to the elements. Our fitness level, however, was tremendous. I think we showed how fit we are by how well we played in the overtime of the Regional final, which was our fourth game in two days. We literally beat them to every ball.”
Though the Gauchos have played at a high level all season, Heil knows that to win a national title, his team still needs to do some hard work in practice. It would be dangerous for the team to become complacent, as an opponent might sneak up on them and steal a game away in a crucial moment. Heil is aware of this danger and is working to eliminate it.
“We will continue to work on our ball possession and fitness level, but I think as we approach Nationals we need to work on our finishing as well,” Heil said.
Although the things the team works on in practice are important, teamwork, according to Heil, is the key to fulfilling their title hopes.
“Teamwork, or as I like to call it, chemistry, is vital to our success at Nationals,” Heil said. “It’s important that we are clicking as a team and playing our best soccer as a team in order for us to be successful.”
The Gauchos, along with San Diego State, have secured automatic bids to Nationals. Heil, however, will not take the pressure off of opponents just because the UCSB team is already in Nationals.
“We don’t want to lose any game that we play, and we especially do not want to give any team any amount of confidence against us,” Heil said. “In our remaining games prior to Nationals, we’ll look to assert ourselves in hopes of remaining undefeated.”
The Gauchos are still trying to schedule a game before they leave for Alabama for Nationals.