All of the grit the UCSB women’s soccer team displayed during its first 10 games of the season was on display in its final non-conference game of the season versus the University of Denver. Up against the 19th ranked team in the country at Harder Stadium, the Gauchos lost 2-1 on a late second-half goal, despite the tenacity they showcased.
The loss drops UCSB to 6-4-1 overall and marks the second time this season the Gauchos have dropped consecutive games. With the victory, the Pioneers move to 8-1-1 on the year as they remain consistent on the road.
UCSB made it a priority to control Denver’s main offensive weapon in senior forward Kristen Hamilton and kept her in check throughout much of the match. Hamilton entered the game with seven goals in only nine games.
However, the Pioneers still managed to find a hole in the defense early in the first half. The defense, which has been a strong point of the team for the season, gave up a goal via a corner kick in the 18th minute to make the match 1-0.
Freshman midfielder Brooke Boothe settled the ball on the pass from senior midfielder Nicholette DiGiacomo and lifted it over the goalkeeper to give the Pioneers the lead going into halftime. Santa Barbara responded with a goal coming out of the half.
In the 52nd minute, junior midfielder Madison Beckley received the ball from sophomore defender Savannah Francis at the top of the box and shot it past the Pioneer defense and into the left corner of the net to draw the game even at one goal apiece. The goal was Beckley’s fourth goal of the season, giving her the most of the team.
From there on, the game was an even stalemate with each team struggling to maintain ball possession. However, much as it has done for most of the season, Denver began to wear down its opponent as the game got deeper into the second half. The Pioneers began to increase the pressure and had a series of shots on target against the goalkeeper, getting as close as hitting the crossbar.
The pressure from Denver proved to be overwhelming for the Gauchos who were called for a foul inside the box in the 76th minute of the game. Junior defender Sam Harder stepped up to the spot and kicked it past sophomore goalkeeper Beth Ritter to give the Pioneers the 2-1 advantage.
Denver held the Gauchos in check for the remaining time left on the clock and controlled the pace of the game after scoring the go-ahead goal, ultimately defeating the Gauchos 2-1.
Denver benefitted from being the aggressors on the pitch as they outshot the Gauchos 15-8. However, most of the damage done by the Pioneers came in the second half, as they had an impressive 12 shots and limited Santa Barbara to only one shot in the period. The sluggish second-half play of the Gauchos was in direct contrast to its play in the first half, where they had seven shots on goal.
The next game of the season will begin the start of conference play for the Gauchos as they host UC Irvine at Harder Stadium. The Anteaters enter the game with a record of 5-4 overall. Kick-off for Friday’s game against the Anteaters is scheduled to start at 5 p.m.
A version of this article appeared on page 6 of September 30, 2013’s print edition of The Daily Nexus.
Photo by Magali Gauthier of The Daily Nexus.