In their second to last game before Nationals, the UCSB women’s soccer club clashed with Salt Lake City Community College in Harder Stadium last Friday. The Gauchos came out hot on a cold night and routed the women from Utah 7-1.
From the opening whistle, it was obvious that the game was unbalanced. The Gauchos came out strong and immediately moved the ball down to Salt Lake’s end of the field, where it would stay for the majority of the game. Not long after kickoff, just 1:45 into the game, senior forward Alyssa Doniak launched the ball into Salt Lake’s net for the first Gaucho goal off an assist from junior forward Tannia Hernandez.
“[Scoring first] definitely calmed our nerves and allowed us to play our game without any pressure,” Doniak said. “It’s really defeating to an opponent to know that you’re losing and constantly having that pressure on your backs. We haven’t been able to score early yet this season, and this game gave us a taste of how much easier the game becomes for us when we do that.”
That first goal was like the opening of a floodgate. Less than three minutes later, Hernandez herself scored a brilliant header off a corner kick from senior midfielder Linda Allen. After that goal, Santa Barbara took a break from scoring until the 38th minute, when senior forward Marissa Haskin scored off junior midfielder Christina Beck’s assist. Two minutes later, freshman defenseman Nadia Zadeh scored off an assist from sophomore midfielder Sydney Nieminen. Zadeh was back to center stage once again just three minutes later, when she broke through Salt Lake’s defense to score the Gauchos’ fifth goal unassisted and give Santa Barbara a 5-0 lead at halftime.
“We’ve been working a lot in practice this week on finishing and getting our offense working together,” Head Coach Todd Heil said. “I think tonight was a good display of that hard work paying off.”
In the second half, it quickly became apparent that UCSB had no intention of letting Salt Lake crawl back into the game. They brought intense pressure right out of the locker room and rarely let the ball enter their own half of the field. However, the goals did not come at the pace of the first half. UCSB scored their first goal of the second half in the 60th minute when Allen broke through to give the Gauchos a 6-1 lead. Salt Lake had scored their first and only goal about 11 minutes into the half. In the 83rd minute, Beck scored the seventh and final Gaucho goal, effectively ending the scoring and the game.
“As a team, we respect every team we play, and we didn’t want Salt Lake to feel like we were trying to embarrass them,” Doniak said. “So yes, we scored fewer goals, but we came in and accomplished what we had to without destroying the other team’s morale.”
On Nov. 18, the Gauchos will travel to Arizona for Nationals. Before they do that, however, they have one more test against UC Irvine on the 15th. Though it will not affect their position in the upcoming tournament, the Gauchos are not underestimating the importance of going into Nationals on a win streak.
“Winning our last game against UC Irvine before we head off to Nationals is important for two reasons,” Heil said. “First, we want to be entering pool play of Nationals on a three-game win streak with confidence. Second, it’s important that we continue to improve and play aswell as we’ve been doing in our last few games.”