New-Look Gauchos Open Regular Season Friday at Nevada

Aug. 20, 2008

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The Schedule
Friday, August 22, 2008 at 7:00 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara at the University of Nevada
at Nevada’s Mackay Stadium

Tuesday, August 26, 2008 at 7:00 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara at No. 2 UCLA
at UCLA’s Drake Stadium

Here We Go Again
UC Santa Barbara, ranked 11th in the Far West by Soccer Buzz, will open the 2008 women’s soccer season on Aug. 22, when it travels to Reno, Nev., to play the University of Nevada.  The match will kick-off at 7:00 p.m.

UCSB Picked To Win Big West
UCSB, which finished fifth in the Big West standings in 2007, has been chosen to win the league’s 2008 regular season crown in a poll of the nine coaches.  The Gauchos collected four first-place votes and a total of 74 points to edge Long Beach State, which garnered three first-place votes and 73 total points.  The 49ers are a two-time defending league regular season champ.  Cal Poly had a pair of first-place votes and 62 points, while Cal State Fullerton, which has won the last two Big West Tournaments, had 60 points.

On The Record
UCSB struggled through an injury-ravaged 2007 season and it was reflected in the record.  The Gauchos finished the regular season with an overall record of 6-10-4, and a Big West record of 3-4-1.  The season was an aberration for a program that was used to finishing in the upper echelon of the league standings and has won or tied for a pair of league regular season crowns (2004 and 2006) in the last four years

On The Stumpf
Paul Stumpf is in his 10th season as the head coach at UC Santa Barbara. He enters this week’s action with a record of 87-69-21. His total of 87 wins ranks second on UCSB’s all-time list. Last season, he guided the Gauchos to a 6-10-4 overall record, including a 3-4-1 record in the Big West.  Stumpf has led the program to records of .500 or better in six of the last eight seasons, including, at one point, four straight seasons of 10 or more victories, the first time the program accomplished that feat since 1988-91.  In 1999, Stumpf’s first season as the head coach at UCSB, he took a team that was selected to finish last in the conference, but instead posted an 8-9-1 overall record and a 5-4 mark in the Big West. Following the season, he was chosen as the Big West’s Coach of the Year.  He has, in fact, guided the Gauchos to a top-three league finish in six of the last eight seasons, and twice he has led the program to regular season championships.  Before arriving in Santa Barbara as an assistant coach in 1998, Stumpf spent two seasons as an assistant at Humboldt State. In addition, the San Diego native spent several years coaching club teams in the Santa Rosa area.

Ives League
Arguably the most important returnee for UCSB is also a newcomer.  Sort of.  Junior forward Genelle Ives, the Gauchos’ leading goal-scorer in 2005 and 2006, missed the 2007 season as she recovered from knee surgery.  She enters the season with 13 career goals and 36 career points at UCSB, and she seemed in good form as she tallied a pair of goals in the Gauchos’ 3-0 exhibition win over Westmont College on Saturday, Aug 16.  In 2007, Santa Barbara scored just 18 goals in 19 matches, but with Ives on hand, the teams offense should take a big leap forward. 

The Honorees Return
Senior defender Rachael Ritchey, a two-time First Team All-Big West selection, returns to lead the Gaucho defensive corps.  Ritchey was a major factor in a UCSB defense that allowed just 19 goals in 19 matches in 2007.  She has started all 40 matches over the last two seasons and is once more expected to be a starting staple.  Senior midfielder Sami Svrcek, who like Ritchey has started all 40 contests the last two years, was also first team all-league last year.  She will again start on the midfield.  Sophomore forward Kailyn Kugler, forced into regular duty because of injuries last season, is now a know quantity.  She was named Big West Freshman of the Year in 2007 after recording team-highs of six goals and 14 points.  

More Happy Returnees
UCSB will also return senior forward Michell Russell (4 goals, 2 assists, 10 points), sophomore defender Julia Speace (19 games, 15 starts), junior midfielder Sarah Stoltz (1 goal, 1 assist, 3 points), and sophomore midfielder Jacqui Simon (2 goals, 1 assist, 5 points) will each play key roles again for UCSB.  Because of the injuries, Simon was forced to play at a forward position during her freshman season, but in 2008, the transfer from UCLA is expected to play more at midfield.

Perhaps the most unsettled position of all for UCSB is goalkeeper.  If all of the players at the position were healthy, the starter would probably be Tammy Lenham, a sophomore who redshirted the 2007 season after having shoulder surgery, is still experiencing some shoulder problems and may not be ready for the season-opener.  Freshman Ali Cutler, if she is healthy enough, will get the start at Nevada.  Another freshman, Laura DiBiase, is also injured and not expected to play this weekend.  The fourth option for the Gauchos would be freshman Alyssa Benjamin (Petaluma, Calif./Casa Grandé HS), who is actually a defender.

New To UCSB, Not College Soccer
Santa Barbara adds three NCAA Division I transfers to the mix this season, another reason for optimism.  Sophomore forward Kylie McDonald (Westlake Village, Calif./Pepperdine), sophomore midfielder Nicole Romanowski (Coto de Caza, Calif./Pepperdine), and sophomore defender Natalie Weeks (San Ramon, Calif./Colorado) should all see major playing time.  As a freshman at Pepperdine, McDonald played in all 19 matches for the Waves, starting 11.  She scored two goals and assisted on another and was named Honorable Mention All-West Coast Conference.  Romanowski, who also played in all 19, starting 18, had a pair of goals and was also named Honorable Mention All-WCC.  Weeks played in eight matches at Colorado, making seven starts, before she was sidelined the remainder of the season with an ankle injury.   In all, UCSB now has five players on its roster who have transferred from other Division I schools.  In addition to McDonald, Romanowski, and Weeks, junior Kacey Doherty is a transfer from Loyola Marymount, and sophomore midfielder Jacqui Simon spent one season at UCLA.

Fresh Faces, High Expectations
UCSB’s freshmen recruiting class is one of its largest ever.  The Gauchos have added a dozen, that’s 12, first-year players to their roster.  The group is generally considered the progrram’s best recruiting class in recent years.  It was ranked 38th in the nation by Soccer Buzz Magazine.  

Naming Names
Among the freshmen expected to have an immediate impact for UCSB, are defenders Alexa Stringer (Danville, Calif./Monte Vista HS), Alyssa Oldham (Yorba Linda, Calif./Mater Dei HS), Alyssa Benjamin (Petaluma, Calif./Casa Grandé HS), and Danika Johnson (San Diego, Calif./Cathedral Catholic HS), midfielders Cory Yoshida (Irvine, Calif./Northwood HS), Katy Roby (Poway, Calif./Poway HS), and Emily Ohlhaver (Newport Beach, Calif./Newport Harbor HS), and forwards Alissa Sanchez (San Diego, Calif./Cathedral Catholic HS) and Lindsey Loftus (Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif./Santa Margarita HS).  

Several Tough Opponents, One Long Strange Trip
As is often the case, UCSB has a very difficult schedule in 2008.  The Gauchos will play three teams ranked among the nation’s preseason top-25 according to the NSCAA.  Santa Barbara will play at second-ranked UCLA (Aug. 26), at home against 13th-ranked Tennessee (Sept. 14), and at 25th-ranked University of San Diego (Aug. 29).  The Gauchos will also have one of the longest road trips in recent memory.  While they will undoubtedly return home several times, following the Sept. 14 game against Tennessee, they will go on the road for a game against Montana in Honolulu, and games at Hawai’i, Arizona State, Arizona, UC Riverside, and Cal State Fullerton, before returning home on Oct. 10.  In all, UCSB will play11 road games and eight home games during the 2008 regular season.