The circumstances might be similar, but the stakes couldn’t be higher. Once again, UCSB will look to rebound from another one-sided conference loss, playing in today’s Big West Tournament Semifinals against Northridge. The #3 seeded Gauchos (8-9-2 overall, 5-2-1 in Big West) took down #2 seeded CSUN (10-9-0, 6-2-0) with a 3-2 final after being blown out 3-0 at Irvine earlier this season, and now travel to Matador Field for a 1 p.m. kickoff following a 2-0 loss to Cal Poly last weekend.
“I think we had a good game against Cal Poly,” said junior midfielder Jacqui Simon. “It was pretty hard to walk out of that game with a loss. We’ve been playing well as a team lately, so we’ll just have to take that into this game and find a way to score.”
While UCSB did earn the victory over Northridge the last time these two squared off, the win was closer than the early moments indicated.
Before even a minute had elapsed, the Gauchos found themselves up 1-0 courtesy of junior forward Kailyn Kugler’s early strike. As the teams braced for halftime, Santa Barbara added one more with junior forward Erica Seidman’s first goal of the season.
Up 2-0 coming out of the locker rooms, UCSB continued the scoring, but in the Matadors’ favor. Freshman defender Kathleen Mathew mistakenly netted an own goal, giving Northridge the offensive spark they needed.
Senior forward Farryn Townley tied it at 2-2 moments later, requiring sophomore forward Katy Roby to play the hero with eight minutes remaining, blasting one from 15 yards out to give the road team the win.
“I think everyone’s pretty excited,” said Simon. “We have to win or we’re out now, so I think everyone’s kind of pumped up. We’ve beaten them once at their field, but it’s not going to be easy because they came back and tied it up. We just need to come out strong and find a way to win.”
Should UCSB pull out a win today, they will play either Cal Poly or UC Irvine, the two Big West teams which handed Santa Barbara their two conference losses this year. If the #1 Mustangs win, UCSB will play in SLO for the tournament crown, but if #4 UCI pulls the upset, the title match will be played at Harder Stadium. Just this once, it’s OK to root for Irvine.