With Nationals and a chance to win their third title in a row just around the corner, the UCSB women’s soccer club would not have been blamed if they had already shifted their focus entirely on to the tournament. However, they still had one game on Sunday to play before that could be safely done, at Irvine for their final game before Nationals. Santa Barbara had the momentum of a two game win streak to carry them into the game, and after brushing the Anteaters aside with an easy 3-0 victory and moving to 9-2-1 overall, they’re still hot heading in to Nationals.

“We do have great momentum for our Thursday games,” senior forward Alyssa Doniak. “We just need to have a good week of practice and keep our heads focused. It’s not going to be as easy as last year, every game will be a battle, but I think we’ve gained some confidence from our past three wins so we are ready for the challenge.”

Needing a win to secure a bid to Nationals, the Gauchos came into the game looking to score early and put Irvine away without a fuss. In the 13th minute, freshman defenseman Nadia Zadeh put away the first goal of the game of off senior defenseman Kristi Christensen’s assist. Two minutes later, sophomore forward Laura Capparilli aided the Gaucho cause with another goal off an assist from Doniak.

“Going up 2-0 definitely put the team at ease, to be honest a little too much at ease,” Head Coach Todd Heil said. “After the second goal, we were somewhat going through the motions. We lacked a passion after the second goal.”

Santa Barbara didn’t score again for the remainder of the half, but they did not allow Irvine to score either. Nevertheless, UCSB was taking no chances and wanted to make sure Irvine was not going to make a comeback.

“Being down three goals is a hard deficit to come back from,” Heil said. “We like to put our opponents in a situation where coming back is incredibly difficult.

That third goal came in the 71st minute off the foot of junior midfielder Christina Beck. That goal effectively put the game out of the reach of the Anteaters, and the Gauchos walked off the field with a 3-0 victory and a place in Nationals.

“It’s always stressful when your future is in the hands of someone else, especially when we could have secured an automatic bid at Regionals,” Heil said. “We were breathing a little easier once we found out we did get an at-large bid.”

When the tournament opens on Thursday, the Gauchos will be playing in a pool that consists of Delaware University and the University of Colorado. UCSB will need to get either first or second in their pool to move on. And although their third championship in a row is right on the horizon, the Gauchos remain focused on their next opponent.

“We are taking it game by game,” Doniak said. “The big picture is in the back of everyone’s mind, but we have to focus on accomplishing the little steps in order to get to the stadium on Saturday night.”

Over their three game win streak, the Gauchos have been playing better soccer than they have all season. According to Coach Heil, they peaked at the right time, as every team will be looking to knock them off the throne in Nationals. However, if the Gauchos can keep the momentum going, they will have a chance to three-peat, a feat that, according to Doniak, no other team has accomplished.