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SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – The UC Santa Barbara women's soccer team (10-6, 3-2 Big West) has relied on last-second moments throughout the season to get to where they are.
Go back two games ago and there's the game against UC Riverside, in which junior forward Shaelan Murison broke Highlander hearts in the 84th minute.
Revisit UCSB's first match of September and you'll find the three-goal comeback against Cal that culminated with senior midfielder Madeline Gibson scoring the golden goal in the 96th minute.
On Friday night, they added another late win to the story of their season with their 2-1 triumph over Cal State Fullerton (3-11-2, 0-4-1 Big West), this one being perhaps the most important of them all as it draws them three points closer to their return to the Big West Conference Tournament for the first time since 2015.
Gibson's goal in the 44th minute and Murison's dead ball strike with four seconds to go in regulation cancelled out Fullerton midfielder Sarah Davidson's 76th minute equalizer to give the Gauchos their third win in Big West Conference play.
The Gauchos dominated the possession in the first quarter hour of the match and they were creating chances as well, putting five shots on the board, three of them from Murison, before Fullerton registered their first in the 16th minute.
Five minutes later, Fullerton midfielder Kristen Swales put a shot on frame that looked like it was destined for the top left corner, but junior goalkeeper Hanna DeWeese made a leaping save to prevent the visitors from scoring the opener against the run of play.
It wasn't until the 44th minute that the Gauchos went ahead. Both teams scrambled for possession off of a throw-in from the far side of the field, and it was senior forward Jessica Parque that emerged with possession before passing the ball into space on the left side of the box awaiting the delayed run of Gibson, who sent a powerful left-footed shot along the ground and into goal.
"It felt really good. We've been struggling to score early in our past few games, so it was nice to get one in the first half to break things open in the first half. We have a really good team this year and everyone is passionate about wanting to get to the tournament so the excitement on the field is very present," said Gibson on her goal.
UCSB had several opportunities to go up by two in the second half, most notably in the 66th minute when Fullerton goalkeeper Tianna Sanders saved a Murison shot.
However, for all the work done defensively by the Gauchos to keep the clean sheet intact, the Titans still found a way to break through for the leveler when DeWeese parried a shot from midfielder Haley Brown into the path of Davidson, who put her chance away in the 76th minute to put Fullerton back into the match.
It looked like the Gauchos were headed for their fourth overtime affair of the year, but UCSB earned a free kick from 30 yards out with just four seconds left on the scoreboard at Harder Stadium. Lining up directly behind the ball was Murison, who stepped up and came away with the game-winner, her fifth of the season, after she shot into the middle of goal and the ball bounced under Sanders into the back of the net.
When you give Shaelan Murison a chance, she takes it.— Big West W-Soccer (@BigWestWSOC) October 20, 2018
The top offensive player into Friday puts away the free kick with seconds left for the @UCSBWomenSoccer win!
Gauchos (3-2) host #HawaiiWSOC (3-2) Sunday in a match with #BWCTourney implications, 6PT.#GauchoPride #PlayBig pic.twitter.com/W7mzL6ZEqJ
After the game, Head Coach Paul Stumpf said, "Last year, we were the better team on a number of occasions and we did not get the result. Tonight, we were the slightly better team- first half for sure, but the second half was a little bit more even. It was a great win and a massive relief."
With the win, UCSB improves to 3-2 in Big West play and move into a tie for third place with Hawai'i with nine points apiece.
The Gauchos' next match is on Sunday at 5:00 p.m. as they host the Hawai'i Rainbow Wahine in the second game of their three-game homestand.