After the Gauchos split their first two Big West matches of the season last weekend, members of the team talked about the lethargy they felt in their second game.

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Junior forward Alissa Sanchez dribbles past a defender in a previous game this season. Sanchez has started 10 of 11 games so far, scoring two goals.

</span“They’re just going to have to play harder,” Gaucho Head Coach Paul Stumpf said. “What can I do?”

However, UCSB (5-5-2 overall, 1-1 Big West) has an opportunity to gain ground in the conference in home matches at Harder against Cal State Northridge (7-5-0 overall) on Friday and #19 UC Irvine (10-1-2 overall) on Sunday.

“We’re very, very excited to play at home for a few games,” senior forward Kailyn Kugler said. “We can’t wait. We know that we play better on our home field.”

While 1-4-2 on the road, UCSB is 4-1 at Meredith Field. In its first exhibition match of the season at Harder, UCSB beat the Matadors 2-0. In fact, the Gauchos won their first three games — all at Harder — while scoring nine goals in those games and only allowing one.

“We play well here,” Stumpf said. “It would be great if we’ve got a great crowd out there. The students make a huge difference.”

In their last meeting with the Anteaters in Irvine in 2009, the Gauchos lost 3-0. Three separate players scored goals while their then-freshman forward, Dana Sanderlin, assisted all three goals.

“We’re definitely a little more nervous to play Irvine,” Kugler said. “Last year we played them at their home field and we kind of got our butts kicked.”

“Every game is important,” Stumpf added. “I’m completely focused on Northridge right now. The good thing is that both teams play the same system. If we take care of business at Northridge, it will be easy to [translate our game] to the Irvine match.”

Both the Matadors and UC Irvine began their respective seasons 2-0 in conference play. Irvine earned its top 25 ranking after beating #17 Oregon State and winning seven consecutive matches.

“They’re going to be super competitive,” freshman goalkeeper Makenna Henry said. “And they’re going to want to prove a point.”

The game against the Matadors begins tonight at 7 p.m. Sunday’s match begins at 1 p.m.