The UC Santa Barbara women’s soccer team played their final game of the 2022 season on Oct. 30, losing to California State University, Long Beach 2-1 in the Big West Quarterfinal game.
The two teams faced off one week earlier on Oct. 23, with the Gauchos winning and securing the No. 5 playoff seed. But in this matchup, the Elbees outplayed UCSB and ultimately came out on top.
“We knew each other’s strengths and weaknesses pretty well. It was just a matter of who did it better, who attacked [the other team] better,” senior goalkeeper Evann Smith said.
Neither team scored in the first half, with both sides playing with elite physicality. Two minutes into the second half, however, CSU Long Beach senior forward Lena Silano scored a goal and put the Elbees up 1-0.
With eight minutes remaining in regulation, UCSB sophomore midfielder Lauren Helwig took advantage of a well-placed pass from sophomore defender and midfielder O’Callaghan Liu and used her head to bounce the ball past the CSU Long Beach goalkeeper, scoring the Gauchos’ only goal of the game.
The game consequently went to overtime, and because of a rule change in collegiate soccer, teams now play two 10-minute halves in overtime, as opposed to the previous “golden goal” rule where the first team that scored won. This modification would have worked in the Gauchos’ favor, since Silano scored again for the Elbees in the first minute of the overtime period, but UCSB was not able to respond and gave CSU Long Beach their first victory of the Big West Championship tournament.
“At the end of the day, we just have to score and we have to keep goals out of the net,” Smith said. “Sadly, we couldn’t do that yesterday, but I do think that we put our whole entire heart onto the field and we left it all out there, so I can’t say anything negative about our performance.”
While UCSB will not advance to the Big West semifinal with the loss, qualifying for the tournament as the No. 5 seed in itself was a victory.
Before they won 3 games straight to end the season, UCSB’s conference win-loss-tie record was 1-3-3. At that point in the season, making the playoffs seemed unlikely, but the Gauchos remained resilient and defied the odds stacked against them.
“We weren’t supposed to be here,” Smith said. “I was only guaranteed 11 games this season, and this was just a bonus game, and I’m just so grateful for the opportunity.”
Smith, as well as her senior teammates, have all played their last soccer game as Gauchos. However, despite losing several key players, the team will look to bounce back next year and return to the postseason.
“There’s a lot of strong individuals on the team, and I know that everybody wants to win,” Smith said. “So if they just keep on working at it and getting down the fundamentals, then I don’t see why they couldn’t win a Big West Championship next year.”
A version of this article appeared on p. 7 of the November 1, 2022 print edition of the Daily Nexus.