After playing its final home games of the regular season, the UCSB women’s soccer team travels south for a pair of conference matches against Cal State Fullerton and UC Riverside this weekend.
Virtually eliminated from postseason contention, the Gauchos are still focused on building on prior performances and finishing the season strong for their seniors.
“These [games] are really important just so that we can get our record up, but I think it’s more important that we kind of send our seniors off on two wins,” sophomore midfield/forward Indiana Mead said. “There’s always a chance we can make it through to the Big West Tournament but it’s more just that we can reward ourselves for how well we’ve been playing.”
Sitting at seventh place in the Big West with four points, UC Santa Barbara is 4-10-2 overall and 1-4-1 in conference after defeating Hawaii 1-0 and losing to Cal State Northridge by the same score.
After scoring five goals in its first three conference games, the UCSB offense is in a state of flux, scoring only twice in its last three outings and averaging a mere 1.17 goals per game in conference.
“We’ve been playing great and our record doesn’t show how well we’ve been doing,” Mead said. “Our team chemistry is awesome so [these games] are definitely winnable; we just have to put the ball in the back of the net.”
Fullerton (7-7 overall, 4-1 conference) enters as one of the hottest teams in the Big West, winning its last four games and propelling to fourth place in conference after defeating Riverside 1-0 last week. Despite scoring only one goal in five of its six conference games, the
Titan defense has been the cornerstone of the team’s success, shutting out six of its opponents this season and allowing a league-low four goals in conference play.
Considering the Titans are second in conference in goals against average (0.77), it will be critical for Santa Barbara to take advantage of its offensive opportunities.
“We play with three strikers and one center mid, so we’re going to do everything we can to aim pressure on their [defense] and get turnovers closer to goal when we’re attacking,” Head Coach Paul Stumpf said. “We’re going to do everything we can to create as many scoring opportunities as we can.”
After playing Fullerton on Friday, UCSB will travel to the Inland Empire for Sunday’s match against a Highlander team that is last in the Big West with a 5-9-2 overall record and 0-5 conference record.
Although playing in front of a home crowd, a win will be hard to come by for Riverside who has lost six straight to the Gauchos and is 2-10 all-time against UCSB.
“No matter what happens on Friday, we’ve got to gather ourselves; reset the tactics a little bit because they play a slightly different system,” Stumpf said. “We’re just going to put the healthiest group out there and have them go after them and hopefully get an early goal so we can grab a little bit of momentum.”
With UCSB’s defense ranking near the bottom of the conference with a 1.74 goals against average, the Gauchos will try to take advantage of a struggling UCR offense that has been outscored in conference 13-3 and is last in shots taken (31) and goals per game (0.60).
Kickoff is set for Friday at 7 p.m. against Fullerton and at 1 p.m. Sunday versus Riverside.