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RIVERSIDE, Calif. – The UC Santa Barbara women's soccer team knew they were entering the most challenging and, arguably, most important stretch of the season once they hit the road for a trio of games against UC Irvine, UC Riverside, and Long Beach State.
On the receiving end of a heartbreaking golden goal in double overtime on Friday in Irvine, the Gauchos (9-5-0, 2-1-0 Big West) also knew they would have to have a short memory to challenge the UC Riverside Highlanders (10-1-2, 1-1-1 Big West), one of only four programs in the country with an unbeaten record, just two days later.
On Sunday night at UCR Soccer Stadium, UCSB, led by junior winger Shaelan Murison and her goal in the 84th minute, managed to become the first team to best the Highlanders this season.
"Playing on the road against a very good opponent on a Sunday after a difficult loss on Friday, I told myself that we were going to see what we're made of," Head Coach Paul Stumpf said after the match. "It was a full team effort and it was a huge three conference points on the road. We have some very high-character, tough young ladies in our program."
The opening minutes of the first half were dominated by UC Riverside, with the Highlanders turning their chances into four shots in the first 20 minutes of play.
Riverside's best opportunity came in the 9th minute as midfielder Madeline Feist rattled the crossbar from range.
After weathering the home side's flurry of early attacks, the Gauchos changed their shape on the field and rode out the first half, limiting the Highlanders to just two shots after the 20th minute.
"Once we made our adjustments, we clamped down on things and their looks towards goal kind of evaporated. The game changed for us after we made our changes."
UCSB were the ones to take control in the second half as they outshot the Highlanders 6-3 by the 80-minute mark, forcing Highlander goalkeeper Annie Bailey to make three saves.
Playing against a defense that had only conceded two goals all season entering the match, the Gauchos finally converted on a chance in the 84th minute when senior midfielder Jessica Clegg passed from the sideline into space for Murison to dribble and shoot quickly into the bottom corner for the go-ahead goal.
Stumpf said "[Bailey] was pretty good throughout the match so [Murison] had to tuck it away in a hurry. She had to put it into a corner with a good bit of pace."
Murison's goal was her conference-leading 9th of the season.
The Gauchos were able to see out the rest of the game for their ninth win of the year, thanks in no small part to the defensive efforts of junior goalkeeper Hanna DeWeese, freshman left centerback Lauren Hess, junior right centerback Sophia Dertorossian, and senior defensive midfielder Sydney Magnin.
"[DeWeese] was very good. There were things she dealt with that didn't show up on the box score- she came out for crosses, corner kicks, she handled set pieces well. Part of the reason why we limited their shots was because DeWeese was very active," Stumpf remarked, "Our two centerbacks were really good and Magnin won an unbelievable amount of aerial duels."
With the win, the Gauchos improve to 2-1 in Big West Conference play. Their six points are good for second place in the league table at the time of writing.
OLÉ-MOLEY!#BigWest goals leader Shaelan Murison (84') puts away her 9th of the season to give @UCSBWomenSoccer the 1-0 win at #UCRiverside and hand the Highlanders their 1st loss of the season!— Big West W-Soccer (@BigWestWSOC) October 8, 2018
Gauchos improve to 2-1 in BWC play, visit #LBSU Sunday, Oct. 14 (6pm PT). #PlayBig pic.twitter.com/IpFNWdnVuf
The Gauchos will play the final match of their three-game road trip when they visit the Long Beach State 49ers on October 14 at 6:00 p.m.