Despite travelling to Hawaii today, it will be all business for the UCSB women’s soccer team, which seeks a result in a pivotal match early in the conference season. Going on its first road trip of the season, the Gauchos will also travel to Cal State Northridge for another crucial conference game on Sunday.
UCSB enter tonight’s game with an overall record of 7-5-1 overall and 1-1 in the Big West, splitting the result at home last weekend. Hawaii comes in at 5-6 overall but is still in search of its first conference win of the season as it dropped its first pair of games in league.
Defense has carried the Gauchos the entire season. Against UC Irvine last Friday, Santa Barbara shutout the Anteaters for a 1-0 win, making all of the Gauchos’ victories come by way of clean sheets. Besides solid play from its veteran defenders on the backline, UCSB has been helped tremendously by the big play of sophomore goalkeeper Beth Ritter.
Ritter leads the Big West conference in goals against average with 0.68, and shutouts with six. When UCSB went on a five-game winning streak earlier in the season, her clean sheets in all those games were the most consecutive shutouts by a UCSB goalkeeper since 1989.
“We’re not terribly surprised, but the fact that she stepped in with little or no experience has been huge,” Head Coach Paul Stumpf said. “Just to have her step in and have her do as well as she did just from the word ‘go’ has been great.”
Prior to the team’s last loss on Sunday versus Long Beach State, junior midfielder Madison Beckley had been red hot playing up top for UCSB. Beckley notched the only goal in Friday’s win against Irvine, bringing her goal total to five, the most on the team. Aside from her goals, Beckley has been creating scoring chances for the Gauchos by recording two assists, tied second on the team.
Hawaii will rely on its home crowd for tonight’s matchup. Last season, the Rainbow Wahine were not able to win a conference game on the road, yet only lost one league game when playing in Hawaii. A key point of emphasis for Santa Barbara will be the passing game. Turnovers by way of errant passes derailed the Gauchos offensive opportunities in its last lost.
“[The game plan] doesn’t really change terribly. We want to do what we do well,” Stumpf said. “Some of the goals we have is we want to possess the ball 65 percent of the game or more, we want to create more chances for ourselves.”
UCSB will have to be on lookout for junior forward Tiana Fujimoto who has scored six goals on the season, second in the league, and is the Warrior’s main threat on offense.
Once the Gauchos finish playing the Warriors, they will head back to California for a matchup against Cal State Northridge (5-7-1 overall, 0-1-1 conference). Despite the long distance traveled in few days, the players are set on playing at the same level of intensity.
“We have that Friday, Saturday gap so I don’t think we’ll be that concerned with Sunday’s game,” sophomore forward Angelisa Cortez said. “It’s about mentality, so you got to go out there and think [you’re] going to win.”
Sophomore goalkeeper Cynthia Tafoya will guard the back of the net for the Matadors and will present trouble for UCSB offensively; her 44 saves on the season are fifth in the league.
Kickoff for tonight’s match against Hawaii is scheduled for 10 p.m. and Sunday’s game at Cal State Northridge will begin at 4 p.m.
A version of this article appeared on page 7 of October 10th’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.
Photo by Peter Vandenbelt of the Daily Nexus