The UCSB women’s soccer club opened their season in a big way this past weekend, playing and winning two games in two days. Coming off an undefeated season in which they won their second straight National Championship, Santa Barbara is on the right track to repeat.
Coming into the first game on Saturday at UC Riverside, the team looked to carry over their success from last season into this season. However, it was understood that doing so would be no easy task. According to Head Coach Todd Heil, Santa Barbara has lost 10 players due to graduation, injury or a study abroad program and had four new starters on the field for the game against the Highlanders. However, Heil believes in the team he has fielded for this season.
“I think we return a very solid core group of players, and we were able to add some quality new players to the roster,” Heil said.
As the first minutes of the game ticked away, the Gauchos came out and looked like they had some rust to shake off.
“We started a little slow at UC Riverside, but that was to be expected,” Heil said. “It was our first game of the season, and we had four new starters on the field. We finally opened up the scoring in the 23rd minute and from there we went on a roll.”
When the Gauchos started scoring, they did not stop until the final whistle blew. What started out as an extremely close game quickly turned into a massacre. At the end of the game, it was clear that Santa Barbara had not lost a step from last season with a final score of 8-0. Five different players were involved in the scoring — senior forwards Alyssa Doniak and Marissa Haskin had four goals and one assist, and three goals and one assist, respectively. Senior midfielder Christy Riva had one goal. Junior forward Tannia Hernandez had one assist, as did junior midfielder Christina Beck .
Sunday’s game at CSU Northridge, unlike the Gauchos’ first game, was never close. Playing against Riverside seemed to shake off the cobwebs, and the Gauchos were able to come out hard.
“At Northridge we picked up right where we left off from Saturday and seemed ready to go from the opening whistle,” Heil said. “Our first goal came in the third minute.”
After playing 90 minutes of “beat down Northridge,” UCSB walked off the field with a 5-0 victory. Doniak and Hernandez each had two goals and senior midfielder Linda Allen scored the other. Haskin and junior defenseman Natalie Lemonnier each had one assist. The Gauchos start the season 2-0, continuing their undefeated run from last season into this one.
“It’s never a safe idea in sports to try and recreate the past,” Heil said. “Every new season brings about a new team with different strengths and weaknesses. However, coming off an undefeated season does give you a chip on your shoulder that you accomplished something you want to protect.”
Though Heil says that it is too early to compare this year’s team to last year’s, he already knows what this team needs to work on. It may come as a surprise, but, according to Heil, the Gauchos biggest flaw is their ability to finish games.
“I know it may seem like we finished well this past weekend, but we also missed a lot of easy chances in front of the goal,” Heil said. The competition only gets tougher from here on out, and we can’t afford to miss easy chances when better teams will be able to limit the number of quality looks we get.”
This Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the Gauchos will welcome in teams from all around the country for the Santa Barbara Invitational. Heil believes some of these games will be the first opportunity for his team to really test themselves. According to Heil, some of the best teams in the nation will be there, and they will be looking to knock UCSB off its throne.