Improved Offense Sparks Optimism for 2014 Gauchos; Season Opens Saturday vs. Westmont
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – In 2013, an injury-marred UCSB women's soccer team allowed a mere 17 goals in 19 matches, but were able to muster only 21 of its own and the result was a 9-9-1 overall record and a 3-5 mark in Big West Conference play.
Head coach Paul Stumpf believes that the 2014 version of the Gauchos has a chance to find the back of the net more regularly than their 2013 counterpart, and it all starts with senior forward Indiana Mead, a preseason all-conference selection.
"Indy is a great leader for this team," Stumpf said. "She has a high soccer IQ and really knows how to play. She spent part of the summer playing for a club team in Oklahoma and she's come back as healthy and fit as she has ever been."
As a junior, Mead played in 15 of 19 matches, tallying two goals and two assists. She is expected to be joined up front by Amanda Ball, a freshman from Chino Hills, Calif., who has impressed early-on in training.
"Amanda is athletic, great in the air, a good passer, and she has very good soccer playing ability," Stumpf said. "As she get more comfortable she will be very good."
Stumpf expects to ease Ball into the system in hope of having her at her best when Big West play comes around.
Senior Madison Beckley, junior Angelisa Cortez, sophomore Morgan Idso and freshman Brittney McKinney could all be factors in the offense as well. As a junior, Beckley was tied for the team-lead in goals with five and she added three assists. In 2013, Cortez had a trio of goals and Idso added a pair. McKinney, from Woodland Hills, Calif., originally committed to the University of Miami before settling at UCSB.
"We have more quality players up front than we've had," Stumpf said. "We can hold the ball, we're athletic and I think we'll be able to stretch things out. We have all of the qualities to score more goals this year with Indy and Amanda being the cornerstones."
The Gauchos will depend on their midfield to kick the offensive production up a notch as well.
When Cortez is not playing up front, she will be attacking from the left side wide midfield position. Cortez could be joined on the right side by sophomore Cristina Polini. Sophomores Annie Dertouzos and Ashley Dean will also factor in.
"Angelisa will be really good wherever we play her," Stumpf said. "Whether it's as a wide midfielder or up front."
Sophomore Sara Feder, who missed all of 2013 with an injury, returns and is expected to start as an attacking midfielder. As a freshman in 2012, Feder led the Gauchos with four goals and was named to the Big West All-Freshman Team. Another sophomore, Dakota Griggs, should also play a major role after scoring one goal and assisting on three others last season.
"After missing all of last year, including most of the spring, Sara could take some time to come around, but she is big, fast and talented. Dakota is smaller and more of a slasher, but together they have a chance to really help us."
Sophomore McKinsey Martinez played in just two matches in 2013, but in her first, she scored a game-winning overtime goal against UC Riverside. She will also be in the mix for playing time, as will freshmen Zoe Purcell and Jordan Alves.
Senior Kelly McGrath is penciled in as holding center midfielder. She played in 16 games in 2014, but was injured late in the season and missed the final three games.
"When someone gets something taken away from them, they sometimes realize how important it is to them," Stumpf said. "Kelly fits into that category. She's really excited and ready to play and has a great attitude."
Defensively, UCSB will need to replace a trio of starters from its stingy 2013 unit, but leading the way is senior center back Miranda Cornejo, who has been a starter since the end of her freshman season.
"Miranda is a rock for us when she's healthy," Stumpf said. "She's been in the starting lineup for every game in which she has been healthy and she will be again this year. She is definitely the leader among our defenders."
Joining Cornejo in the middle of the defense will likely be either Fuertes or Schornstein, each of whom will also see action in the midfield.
"Both of them (Schornstein and Fuertes) are very intelligent, good with the ball, calm and smart," Stumpf said. "They have a good temperament to play on the back line."
Sophomore Adrianna Nuñez has missed all but one game the last two seasons because of knee injuries, but she is back and will also be looked at closely for a central defender spot.
"Adrianna has had two knee surgeries and didn't look great in the spring," Stumpf said. "But she has come back in very good shape and looks very good overall. She has earned an opportunity to compete for a spot."
The competition for left outside back is between a pair of freshman while the right side will most likely be a returnee.
On the left side, Calah Simarago out of Los Alamitos, Calif., and Kate Shoemaker, from San Diego, are battling for the starting spot. Both are naturally left-footed, which is what Stumpf wants from his left side back.
"We've only gone after natural lefties for the left side of the field," he said. "Kate and Calah are inexperienced, but by the time we get to conference play, we hope they have risen to the challenge. I believe they will."
"This is a good competition," Stumpf said. "Each of the players has some experience and they each bring something different to the table."
The starting goalkeeper spot would seem to be safely in the sure hands of junior Beth Ritter. As a sophomore, Ritter played in 16 matches, starting 15, and she finished with a solid 0.77 goals against average, the third lowest in UCSB history. In addition, at one point during the season, she recorded five consecutive shutouts, the most by a Gaucho in two decades.
"Beth has a track record of winning," Stumpf said. "She had great success at the club level and she was outstanding last season. This year, she is more stable and more explosive."
"This year we actually have five goalkeepers on the roster who can play," Stumpf said. "In the past we would keep four and wind-up with only one because of injuries, so this year we're keeping five."
The 2014 Gauchos will make their debut this Saturday, August 16th in an exhibition match against Westmont at Harder Stadium. The following weekend, the team will open the regular season with back-to-back home contests against Cleveland State (8/22) and Southern Utah (8/24).
Season tickets for women's soccer are available for the low price of $35 and they are available from the Ticket Office in the Intercollegiate Athletics Building on campus or by calling 805-893-UCSB (8272). Individual game tickets are available in person, over the phone or online by clicking here.