The UCSB women’s soccer team will hit the road this weekend, traveling to UC Irvine to take on the defending regular season Big West champs today before facing Cal State Northridge on Sunday.
The Gauchos are coming off a devastating weekend, which saw things take a turn for the worse as they lost a pair of 2-1 games to Long Beach State and Cal State Fullerton in overtime, both on penalty kicks from two questionable handball calls in the box. With the losses, the Gauchos dropped their record to 5-7-2 and 0-2 in the Big West.
“They’re competitive girls,” Head Coach Paul Stumpf said. “They’re not happy with their current situation, so I’m sure they would really like to turn around this weekend and get at least one result, but two would be phenomenal.”
The match against Irvine is sure to be one of the tougher tests of the season for Santa Barbara.
“Irvine is a really talented team,” Stumpf said. “They play on a field that is a little bit faster than ours, so that’s tough to deal with a little bit.”
The Anteaters (7-3-2 overall, 0-1-1 Big West) are coming off a couple of overtime heartbreakers of their own as they tied UC Davis on the road in double overtime last Friday before traveling to Pacific only to lose 3-2 in overtime.
“We’re expecting a pretty big crowd on Friday night,” Stumpf said. “Hopefully that will motivate our kids to play even harder to play in front of a nice big crowd … it should be a good game on Friday night.”
Hit with the injury bug of late, UCSB recently lost last week’s Big West Offensive Player of the Week, sophomore midfielder Erica Shelton, to a season-ending knee injury, in addition to losing senior captain and midfielder Cory Yoshida for the season a week earlier.
“It’s definitely going to be tough,” freshman forward Indiana Mead said. “Playing at Irvine is tough because the fans can be hard at times. If we just come out like we have been but finish our opportunities that we get on goal and not give up any stupid goals, we’re going to do really well.”
Facing a 0-2 conference record along with numerous injuries, the Gauchos will have to execute and prove their grit this weekend on the road against one of the top teams in the Big West.
“We’re definitely motivated and pumped up for this game,” Mead said. “I definitely think that we’re just ready to come out hard and win.”
Sunday’s match against Northridge (3-6-2 overall, 1-0-1 Big West) may not seem as difficult a task for Santa Barbara, but the team was quick to note that they cannot overlook any opponent in the conference.
“They struggled in their nonconference, but I think their nonconference was one of the toughest ones in the country,” Stumpf said. “I think Northridge is a lot better than their record would show.”
“Our morale is kind of down because we are 0-2,” Mead said. “If we can pull two huge wins this weekend that would put us right back on the map and show everyone we are here to win.”
Kickoff tonight is scheduled for 7 p.m.