The UCSB women’s soccer team picked up their third win in conference play in a dominating fashion against Hawai’i, putting the squad at an overall record of 7-4-5 (3-1-2 in conference play.) Following a hat trick from senior forward Shaelan Murison, the Gauchos were able to win fairly comfortably.
Santa Barbara entered this game after ending two consecutive matchups in a tie. In their most recent matchup against Cal State Fullerton, the team was unable to gain the edge despite multiple chances in the overtime periods. Even with the tie, there were many positives to take away from the matchup, including the strong effort by the Gauchos on defense.
Hawai’i, 5-7-3 overall, had struggled earlier in the season but has rebounded nicely as the Rainbow Wahine have won three of their past five matchups, with the other two being ties. Much of their success as of late can be attributed to the strong play of sophomore defender Kayla Ryan, who not only leads the team with five goals but is also the anchor of the Hawai’i defense. To have success in this matchup, the Gauchos had to limit the amount of opportunities for Ryan to score.
UC Santa Barbara got off to a quick start as Murison was able to get past the defense to score her first goal of the game in the seventh minute of the match. Shortly thereafter, Murison recorded her second goal in the 27th minute after flying past numerous Rainbow Wahine defenders and striking the ball past the outstretched arms of the Hawai’i goalkeeper.
Despite being down by two points, the Rainbow Wahine continued to put pressure on the Gauchos and were eventually rewarded with a penalty kick in the 51st minute. Ryan calmly found the back of the net while also making it a one-score game for the Rainbow Wahine.
For the Gauchos, this is often the time of the game where they would struggle to put teams away after obtaining an early lead. That being said, the Gauchos were able to score their third goal of the game with a beautiful shot from sophomore forward Jessica Wright, giving them a two-goal advantage in the 78th minute. A little over ten minutes later, Murison would record her hat trick and put the game out of reach for Hawai’i.
There are many positives to take away from this match, but the one that really sticks out is the improved play of the Gauchos’ forwards. One of the main struggles this year has been finding the back of the net when Murison is being double teamed by opposing teams. The Gauchos have seemed to address this issue, as their forwards are starting to play with much more pace; this not only puts them in better scoring opportunities but also allows Murison to be free from double teams.
In addition to their improvement on the offensive side of the field, senior goalkeeper Hanna DeWeese continues to impress as she has now recorded a total of 47 saves along with a save percentage of 74%. For the Gauchos to continue their strong play, DeWeese will need to continue anchoring the defense and providing veteran leadership for the young squad.
With just a couple games left in the regular season, UCSB is currently third in the Big West Conference standings and is only one win away from being tied for first place. If the Gauchos are able to win their next two matchups, it will put them in a fantastic position to be either the No. 1 or No. 2 seed heading into the Big West Tournament.
Santa Barbara is back in action this upcoming Friday, where the ‘Chos will face UC Riverside in their second-to-last home game of the season at 7 p.m. at Harder Stadium.