After ten non-conference matches to begin the season, the UCSB women’s soccer team prepares itself for the beginning of its conference schedule and a shot for the Big West conference title as it hosts UC Davis and University of the Pacific this weekend. After beginning the season 0-3, the Gauchos have won three of their last seven games and seem to be hitting stride at the right moment of the season.

“We played at least four top 25 teams [in preseason] so I think playing great teams prepared us very well,” senior midfielder and defender Erin Ortega said. “We learned a lot about our team and I think we are really prepared for conference.”

After a disappointing 3-1 defeat to No. 17 San Diego St. last Sunday, the Gauchos (3-6-1) play the Aggies (5-4-1) on Friday and will get ready for another conference match against Pacific (3-6) on Sunday. Managing to score only one goal in its first five games, the Gauchos have turned their offense around as they have scored a total of seven goals in the last seven matches.

Ortega is confident that this is a sign that the offense is beginning to peak when it matters most. “I think we finally figured out how to run plays and work together and do things now that we are playing to our potential,” Ortega said. “I think if we play the way we played during preseason we are going to bring home two wins this weekend.”

Looking to rebound against the Gauchos after a 2-0 loss to New Mexico, the Aggies are led by junior forward and midfielder Ashley Edwards who has notched four goals in the season to lead the team.

Freshman midfielder Sara Feder has already made an impact for the Gaucho’s front line, leading the team in shots taken (22), while tied for most goals on the team with two. Feder will have the tough task of facing off against a strong UC Davis back line which has only let the opposition score more than one goal in three of its first ten matches.

Santa Barbara will be tested Sunday against the Tigers and reigning Big West Offensive Player of the Week, sophomore midfielder Sasha Moscatello.

Despite 22 underclassmen on this year’s squad, the Gauchos have made the necessary adjustments to become one of the dark horse teams to take the Big West title this season.

“People are going to be surprised once they play against us; once we hit conference,” said senior midfield and defender Dyanne Anderson. “We are going to show them we’re not the same from team from last year.”

Kickoff for Friday’s game against UC Davis is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Harder Stadium, while Sunday’s match begins at noon.