Just a few days after winning the Big West Championship in an epic shootout, the UCSB women’s soccer team now has a few more reasons to celebrate after five Gauchos received All-Big West honors.
Junior forward Genelle Ives received Offensive Player of the Year honors, while seniors midfielder Sami Svrcek, defender Rachael Ritchey and sophomore midfielder Jacqui Simon were picked to the All-Big West First Team, and sophomore forward Kylie McDonald made the All-Big West Second Team.
Ives leads the Gauchos with 25 points off nine goals and seven assists after medically redshirting last season following knee surgery. Ives has bounced back well to continue an impressive career. After being named co-Freshman of the Year in 2005, she snagged All-Big West First Team honors in 2006 before being sidelined last season.
“[Ives] came back with an increased level of determination,” Head Coach Paul Stumpf said. “She’s always scored goals for us, but she has worked much harder on the defensive end. We won six games last year, and now she has come back and made a huge impact in us winning 12.”
Just after picking up MVP honors for the Big West Tournament, Svrcek has been named to her second First Team in the last two seasons. Svrcek has four assists on the season, but her contributions go far beyond the numbers. She is always a visible force in the midfield, and her control has kept possession in the Gaucho attack more often than not.
“That girl has a heart the size of a Mack truck,” Stumpf said. “She is our fittest player, and she fights box to box. She’s really the heart of our team.”
The other senior honored is a perennially solid player in the Santa Barbara defense was named to the All-Big West First Team for her third year in a row after walking onto the team. Ritchey, who leads the Gauchos in minutes played, holds down a UCSB back that has averaged only 0.95 goals against with eight shutouts this season. Even more impressively, Ritchey is the only upperclassmen in a defensive unit that rotates three freshmen and a sophomore. Ritchey said that after getting First Team nominations the previous two years, she was happy to know that she’s still playing at a quality level.
“I’m really excited,” Ritchey said. “I’m excited my play hasn’t dropped, that would have been a bummer, especially because I didn’t play well last year and I got it, and this year I’ve been playing better. I always thought I was alright in soccer, but I got so into it being here. Having my best friends around and playing in this environment, I really got invested in it.”
Honored along with the upperclassmen is a pair of sophomores, Simon and McDonald, who have been stellar for the Gauchos in a breakout season for both. Simon is ranked sixth in the Big West with 20 points off of six goals and eight assists and has proved to be very clutch this season. Just behind Simon is McDonald, who has five goals and eight assists for a seventh-best 18 points.
“The nature of the beast here is we’re going to lose our seniors,” Stumpf said. “Rachael [Ritchey] and Sami [Svrcek] are huge holes to fill, but look at Simon and McDonald getting awarded. There are so many young players contributing this year, getting valuable experience in a conference title run, winning a conference championship and getting to play in the NCAA tournament, that we’re going to be good in the future.”
Notably left off the postseason selections is sophomore forward Kailyn Kugler, who was Big West Freshman of the Year last year. Kugler has come out even better this year and is also seventh in the Big West with 18 points off seven goals and a quartet of assists. Despite a standout season, Kugler didn’t even get named to the Honorable Mention list.
“Kailyn Kugler definitely got snubbed,” Stumpf said. “If you’re talking about forwards, they are supposed to score, and she did it seven times this year. One of the other forwards who was named only scored twice I think. She was Freshman of the Year last season and definitely didn’t show any form of a sophomore slump, so I don’t know.”