Entering the day winless in conference, Sunday’s 2-0 victory over visiting Riverside proved to be exactly what the UCSB women’s soccer team needed to bounce back after a heartbreaking start to Big West play.
Junior midfielder Erin Ortega scored the go-ahead goal in the 50th minute to give the Gauchos their first conference win, improving the team’s record to 6-9-2 (1-4 Big West).
“It’s what we needed,” Ortega said. “We needed to get one in, break them down. It gave us confidence, boosted everyone’s morale and overall it was just so good for us.”
Scoreless in the first half, Riverside (7-7-1 overall, 2-2 Big West) controlled the match for the first 15 minutes before UCSB began an attack of their own. Six minutes into the second half, Ortega put her open shot into the left corner of the net past the arms of Highlander freshman goalkeeper Sara Slaughter.
“We practiced all week on going to goal,” Ortega said. “We were really focusing on going straight to goal.“
Freshman forward/midfielder Indiana Meade closed out the match with an insurance goal in the 79th minute to put Santa Barbara ahead 2-0. After a deflection, Meade found herself in the right spot and sent the ball into the left of the net past the goalkeeper and another defender.
“The first goal was great and getting the second goal just kind of let us settle down a little bit,” Meade said. “We were able to keep it and be secure in the back. And it’s always nice to go up two; or three — it could have been three.”
Riverside, who defeated Cal Poly 2-1 in overtime on Thursday, came into the match with momentum, something UCSB seemed to lack. The Gauchos were shutout in their previous two games, both 1-0 losses last weekend.
“We’ve been talking about scoring all year long,” Head Coach Paul Stumpf said. “Instead of us doing more of the chasing in the first half, I felt like once we got out of the first 15 minutes, they were doing more of the chasing. That wore them down and then the goals came.”
Defensive play was once again strong for UCSB as sophomore goalkeeper Makenna Henry put forth a stellar effort with her fifth shutout of the season and first in conference play. Henry made all seven of her save opportunities with five coming in the first half.
Offense has been a point of concern for a team that had scored only two goals in four conference matches. It was the first time UCSB has scored more than one goal since their Sept. 9 victory at Oakland.
“The most important thing for me is that they are finally getting rewarded for all of their efforts,” Stumpf said. “We’ve played well enough to win, haven’t gotten the results, so finally tonight we put it all together. Relief is a great word.”
With three games remaining on their schedule, UCSB pushed over the hump and notched their first conference win.
UCSB continues conference play when they travel north next weekend to take on Pacific and Davis.