Sometimes even two overtimes aren’t enough to decide a winner, but hey, no one ever said playoffs were boring.
In the semifinal match of the Big West tournament, the UCSB women’s soccer team rolled over Cal Poly in a thoroughly thrilling 2-1 finish on penalty kicks. The Gauchos went up 1-0 in the first half, but Cal Poly managed to find the back of the net in the last second to knot things up. Neither team could snag the winning goal through two overtimes, forcing a shootout. Santa Barbara won the coin flip and elected to defer to the Mustangs. The teams matched goal for goal on their first four penalty kicks, but on the fifth the San Luis Obispo player clanged her shot off of the right post. Junior midfielder Sarah Stoltz, picked to shoot in the fifth and final position, stepped up to the plate and placed a perfect low shot to the post to cap off a fantastic win.
“It’s been awhile [since taking a penalty kick],” Stoltz said. “I was scared, but I’m glad I was the one to do it. I would have regretted it had I passed on it. I was less nervous once I got up there after that girl missed, and I knew I had to do it.”
Head Coach Paul Stumpf said that their previous match up at Cal Poly paid off with some video of the Mustang keeper defending a PK.
“Interestingly enough, we had a penalty kick up at Cal Poly, and we noticed that the goalkeeper reacted only [without guessing],” Stumpf said. “All we needed were players who could pass the ball firmly into the corner.”
Despite the scouting help, Stumpf said he was still too nervous to watch the last shot.
“On the fifth one I chose not to watch and maybe that was the difference,” Stumpf said. “I’ll have to start doing that from now on.”
On the other half, UCSB had freshman goalkeeper Ali Cutler in the net. In her first playoff game, she took the shootout pressure in stride and managed to get a paw on a couple of the shots. Cutler credited goalkeeper coach Stuart Dobson for showing her a new technique for intimidating opposing shooters.
“[Dobson] showed me this technique in a video that you wait outside the goal while the shooter sets up and you make them wait,” Cutler said. “You walk around and around while they get more and more nervous. The ref actually yelled at me to get into the goal.”
The Gauchos looked a bit shaky early on in the game, and made mistakes that gave the Mustangs a few good looks. Santa Barbara soon settled down though, and in the 31st minute junior forward Genelle Ives notched her ninth goal of the year to put the home team up 1-0. Freshman forward Alissa Sanchez took the ball down the right side and sent a lovely arcing cross into the far side of the box, where Ives used her height to whip a perfect header across the face of the goal and into the right side net.
“I thought it was a brilliant goal,” Stumpf said. “It was a great quality cross, and that’s something we’ve been working on for months.”
The Gauchos came out in the second half well-matched with the Mustangs, but on the third of three SLO corner kicks in a row, Cal Poly finally found the equalizer. Santa Barbara rebounded and began to dominate the latter portion of the game. However, despite taking a ridiculous 30 shots, 12 of which were on frame, Santa Barbara could only manage to hang around and wait for the shootout heroics. Stumpf said that the win over their rivals is a huge weight off his shoulders.
“For the first four or five years against Cal Poly we never got a result, and I think they knocked us out of the Big West tournament twice, so a loss would have cut a wound I’ve been dealing with for ten years,” Stumpf said. “I think we’ve won four out of the last five meetings, and now we’ve knocked them out.”
Sunday, the Gauchos travel to Long Beach State for the Big West championship. Although UCSB played 110 minutes tonight, Stumpf said that they will be more than ready to go.
“We’ll be fine,” Stumpf said. “If we had to go and play again two days from now, I’d be a little bit concerned, but with two days off, by Sunday afternoon with all of the adrenaline flowing they should be fine.”