SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Facing Westmont in its annual season-opening exhibition Saturday night at Harder Stadium, a strong first half would see UC Santa Barbara enjoy one of its most explosive offensive showings in recent years, taking a convincing 5-1 win over the Warriors.
A one-sided affair for much of the night, the Gauchos poured it on in the early-going with four goals before the halftime whistle, led by junior Shaelan Murison's first half brace. UCSB outshot Westmont 14-3 through the first 45 minutes, eventually closing things out with a decisive 19-3 advantage.
"There were a number of things that went well. It was really nice for us to be able to completely empty the bench, and everybody that was eligible got to play minutes, which is always a good thing," head coach Paul Stumpf said. "There's no practice we could possibly organize that's better than playing against outside competition. I like the players we have going forward and I like our chance of scoring goals."
Murison opened the scoring in the 11th minute. Some nifty dribbling down the right side gave junior forward Katherine Sheehy enough room to send a dangerous cross into the box, which Murison brought down off her chest. After several quick touches around a Westmont defender, the Santa Clara, Calif. native fired a right-footed riser in off the crossbar, giving UCSB a 1-0 advantage.
Once again attacking down the right side in the 14th minute, Sheehy sent a weighted pass through for sophomore Christine Maurer. Senior midfielder Madeline Gibson then concluded one of the Gauchos' best buildups of the night, beating the keeper to double the lead following a beautiful drop-off pass from Maurer.
Despite its offense being mostly silenced, all three of Westmont's shots came courtesy of Maddi Berthoud. Berthoud would slice the home side's lead in half with a first-time volley off a bouncing free kick in the 39th minute.
It didn't take long for the Gauchos to find an answer, essentially putting the game away with two more goals less than five minutes after conceding. Sheehy – who finished with a game-high two assists – converted a headed goal off the left post following a well-placed cross by sophomore Cate Post.
In the 44th, Murison took advantage of a spill by the Westmont keeper, finding space with a few dribbles before slotting a shot into an empty net to make it 4-1.
Midfielder Sydney Magnin put the finishing touches on the game midway through the final frame. A Westmont foul 25 yards out set the senior up for a perfectly placed free kick just inside the left post, capping the 5-1 win.
The Gauchos placed 14 shots on frame, resulting in nine saves for Westmont's Gabi Haw. Murison led the way with six shots, while five other Gauchos tallied at least two.
UCSB will open the 2018 regular season on Friday, Aug. 17 against Sacramento State at the UNLV Tournament. The Gauchos' home season-opener will be against Boise State on Aug. 24 at 5:30 p.m. at Harder Stadium.