Aug. 17, 2006
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The 2006 UC Santa Barbara women's soccer team returns its top seven scorers and players who accounted for 22 of the team's 24 total goals in 2005. In addition, the Gauchos welcome a recruiting class which was ranked among the top-45 in the nation by Soccer Buzz Magazine, a pair of talented Division I transfers and two players who were starters in 2004 but redshirted the 2005 season.
So, what aspect of the team's roster is head coach Paul Stumpf most excited about?
"Last year we had 18 new players on a roster of 30," began the eighth-year head coach. "We had a lot of difficult issues to overcome. For one thing, it took us a long time to figure out roles and we didn't really start playing well until the end of the season."
The 2006 version of Gaucho soccer is just the opposite.
"This year we have just eight rookies on a roster of 30," Stumpf said. "That's 22 players who I've spent one to five years with. They know me and I know them. That makes a big difference. Our spring (2006) season was a big improvement over the fall because we knew each other and the team chemistry changed."
Sophomore forward Genelle Ives leads UCSB's offensive attack. The Big West Conference co-Freshman of the Year and a Second Team All-Big West choice, Ives paced the Gauchos with six goals and 18 points in 2005. She also had six assists. Senior Allie Kueny, who suffered a knee injury during the summer, had three goals, a team-leading nine assists and 15 points last season. If she is healthy, she and Ives give UCSB a top-notch one-two returnee punch on the frontline.
Another returnee, senior Chandi Bickford, had three goals and 10 assists as a sophomore in 2004, but she played in just seven matches and struggled through an injury-filled junior campaign in 2005. One of the best athletes on the team, Bickford's healthy return would be a major boost to the Gauchos. Sophomore forward Michelle Russell was off to a good start in 2005, scoring a pair of goals in her first seven matches, but an ankle injury put her on the shelf for the final 12 contests. Her healthy return would also be a major positive for UCSB.
Junior Heather Young, a transfer from Ohio State, is expected to be a major contributor immediately. Young is an outstanding athlete with very good speed and agility and could become a major force in the Big West Conference.
Senior Darci Gwartz, an Honorable Mention All-Big West honoree in 2005, leads the way among midfield returnees. As a junior, Gwartz had two goals and two assists. Katie Smith, a sophomore, also returns in the midfield. She started all 19 games in 2005 and had a pair of goals and a pair of assists. Smith was, in fact, the only midfielder to start all 19 games for the Gauchos last season.
Senior Kristyn Bright, a First Team All-Big West selection in 2003 and a Second Team All-Big West choice in 2004, returns after missing the 2005 season with a knee injury. If she can regain her health, Bright will play a prominent role in the UCSB midfield in 2006. Junior Kathleen Prieto, one of the fiercest competitors on the team, played in just nine matches last year. In 2006, Prieto will make the move to outside midfielder where she still possesses one of the most powerful legs on the team. Sophomore Linda Allen, who can play almost every position on the field, made 14 starts in 2005 and she earned the opportunity to compete for a starting spot in 2006.
A pair of freshmen could impact the midfield as well. Erin Doherty (Lakewood, Calif./Wilson HS) and Sarah Stoltz (Ojai, Calif./Nordhoff HS) are different type of players, but either could earn significant playing time. Doherty is an outstanding technical central midfielder with an outstanding work rate. Stoltz is a blue-collar-type with good possession skills.
The backline is where Santa Barbara returns its most experience. Junior Katie Dwyer started all 19 matches in 2005 and should be a factor again. Juniors Kandice Mclaughlin and Katrina Wright, who transferred from Division I schools prior to the 2005 season, finished 2006 as regular starters. McLaughlin, who began her career at Michigan, can also play in the midfield. Sophomore Rachael Ritchey, who played in just 12 matches as a freshman, had an outstanding spring and she is a leading candidate to start as a defender in 2006. Romy Barber, hampered by injuries for much of 2005, is also a possibility.
Sophomore Jessie Steinberg redshirted the 2005 season after playing in all 21 matches and starting 20 in 2004. Her return to UCSB's defensive corps is vital.
The one newcomer who could impact the situation is Lexi Eaton (Monrovia, Calif./Arcadia HS). A very good individual defender, Eaton is very quick and fast and she has very good skills.
With four-year starter Jamie Considine now a member of the coaching staff, the goalkeeper spot will definitely be filled by a newcomer and the two leading candidates are junior transfer Katie Wright and freshman Tammy Lenham (Hermosa Beach, Calif./Mira Costa HS).
Wright, a transfer from Nebraska, redshirted the 2005 season after an early injury. As a sophomore in 2004, she played every minute of every Cornhusker match helping the team to a 14-9 record and into the second round of the NCAA Tournament. A native of Mission Viejo, Wright is tall (5-foot-10) and athletic. Lenham is also a good athlete and, like Wright, she has good size (5-foot-9) and she is a good shot-blocker. Redshirt freshman Austen Everett (Seattle/Bishop Blanchet HS) will also be an option in the goal.
Stumpf believes that the competition for positions in 2006 will be a key to UCSB's success, but as if that weren't enough, the team has an additional motivating factor.
"Last year we really underachieved," he said. "We didn't have good chemistry and that showed on the field. In the end, for the first time, we were sitting at home during the Big West Tournament. This year I think we have the chemistry and talent not only to make the tournament but I think we have a chance to win it. That's our goal and I think it's realistic."