Over a month of preparation has led up to this moment.
Tomorrow, the UCSB women’s soccer team begins its long awaited conference season at home against UC Irvine. Not having reached the postseason since 2009, the Gauchos are set on making a statement against Irvine and then again on Sunday versus Long Beach State.
UCSB has already surpassed its win total of last year of five games, coming into the match with a 6-4-1 overall record.
During the nonconference part of the regular season, the Gauchos went on a five-game winning streak where they shut out all of their opponents.
However, they enter with a two-game skid on their hands after losing to ranked Texas Tech and Denver. Nevertheless, that is all a distant memory for the team now that the real season is about to start. All that matters is league.
UC Irvine had success similar to the Gauchos during its nonconference schedule and comes into Harder Stadium with a 5-4 overall record.
In September, UCI upset BYU, which was ranked No.6 in the country at the time, in what was the program’s biggest victory against a ranked opponent.
Irvine still showed it has room for improvement though as in its most recent game they were picked apart by Washington State for a 4-0 loss.
Although UCSB has the advantage of playing at home where they are 4-1, the Anteaters showcase an identical record on the road that the Gauchos have at home, including impressive victories against Oregon and Oregon State.
Santa Barbara has been led offensively by junior midfielder/forward Madison Beckley, who has had a breakout season thus far. She scored the lone goal for UCSB in the last game to give her four on the season, a team-high and third overall in the Big West.
Although she has started only three games, her role coming off the bench has translated to better offensive flow for the team as a whole. The Gauchos have been a surprise offensively this year as UCSB is tied with Cal Poly for most goals scored in the Big West with 16 and third in assists with 16 as well.
Despite the offense being a surprise, the defense UCSB has shown has been on point with what was expected of them in the beginning of the year even though original starting goalkeeper Makenna Henry has been sidelined with injury for the past seven games. Sophomore Beth Ritter has filled in between the post and is leading the league in goals-against average (0.61), goals against (5) and is second in save percentage (.821).
Irvine has a balanced attack offensively with seven different players on the team scoring and junior forward Laura McGrail leading the team in goals with four on the season. The Irvine defense will give UCSB trouble as they have carried the team as evident by its four shutouts.
Long Beach will pose just as much of a threat, if not more. for Santa Barbara. The 49ers have the best winning percentage in the Big West with a 6-4 overall record with their best win coming by a 1-0 score line against ranked BYU after its defeat by Irvine; it was only BYU’s fourth lost in its last 32 games.
Sophomore goalkeeper Kaci McCain has been stellar guarding the net for Long Beach. McCain has only been scored on six times this season and her goal-against average ranks third with 0.75. Long Beach’s stingy defense, evident by its 1.10 goal against average, will give UCSB problems on offense.
Friday’s game against UC Irvine is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. and kick-off for Sunday’s match versus Long Beach State is for 1 p.m.
A version of this article article appeared on page 7 of October 3rd’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.
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