Playing on the front lines of an offense in desperate need of consistency, junior forward Kailyn Kugler posted a weekend hat trick for the UCSB women’s soccer team, netting the only goal during Santa Barbara’s 1-0 Friday win over Cal State Fullerton before scoring twice Sunday night to earn a 2-1 victory over UC Riverside. After sending the game into overtime with a 68th minute strike, Kugler buried a penalty kick with 52 seconds remaining in double overtime to break the Highlanders’ hearts at Harder Stadium.
“I was kind of excited,” Kugler said. “I’ve practiced PKs a lot, so I somewhat knew what I was doing, but they can always go either way. … I just went up there hoping and trying to stay calm.”
The weekend’s excitement would have to wait until Sunday, as UCSB (6-7-1 overall, 3-1-0 in Big West) played host to a Fullerton squad (3-7-3, 1-2-0) that had beaten the Gauchos 2-0 last year, one of only two Big West teams to do so. Even with home field advantage, Santa Barbara could do no better than a 0-0 tie as they entered the locker rooms. UCSB outshot the Titans 12-5 for the match, and their aggressiveness finally paid off in the 75th minute when Kugler took a chance from 35 yards out, catching junior keeper Shannon Simpson off-guard for a 1-0 lead. That late goal proved to be the difference, as UCSB buckled down on defense to make the goal stand up.
“We lost to them last year, so going into this game we really wanted to beat them,” junior forward Kylie McDonald said. “We played well, had our chances … [Kugler]’s goal was really nice.”
While Friday’s match proved to be a fairly dry affair, Sunday was a different story entirely. Although UCSB dominated time-of-possession, shot attempts (8-3) and corner kicks (5-1) in the first half, it was Riverside (5-6-5, 0-3-0) who struck first. Freshman defender Kristina Noriega collected a beautiful free kick by senior forward Denise Thomas in the box and snuck a low line drive past the junior keeper Tammy Lenham for a 1-0 Highlander advantage. UCSB would continue to apply the pressure in the second half, outshooting Riverside 29-3 by the end of regulation, and Kugler finally found the equalizer with 22 minutes left to play off a nice feed by McDonald.
At that point, the poised Highlander defense — which had only allowed eight goals all year going into Sunday’s meeting — started to implode. Junior defender Candis Novis was thrown out of the game after being issued a second yellow card for gripping McDonald’s jersey, leaving Riverside a player down against a speedy UCSB attack.
“[Novis] was pretty frustrated,” McDonald said. “It seemed like everyone was beating her the whole game.”
It took 110 minutes, but a foul was finally called after multiple players collided in the Riverside box and the center judge was forced to call a foul. That set up Kugler’s game-winning PK, and a 2-0 start to UCSB’s four-game homestand.
UCSB returns to Harder Stadium this Thursday to play host to Long Beach State in a rematch of last year’s Big West Tournament Championship, which the Gauchos won in penalty kicks. Admission to this 5 p.m. showdown is free for students.