For 79 minutes, the UCSB women’s soccer team was poised to win its ninth game of the season and fifth in the Big West Conference on Sunday against UC Irvine at Harder Stadium.
When the 80th minute rolled around, however, disaster wasn’t lurking too far behind.
Scarlett Camberos and Kala McDaniel scored a goal apiece in a 42-second span with 10 minutes remaining in regulation to give the Anteaters a 2-2 draw in the regular-season finale for both teams.
“I think a game like this helps us,” Gaucho coach Paul Stumpf said. “I think it helps toughen us up. … I’m not disappointed in this team at all. My only disappointment is in the result.”
Stumpf was asked about the 80th minute, and the tenaciousness of UC Irvine’s offense.
“It’s simple, you’re down 2-0 and you change your tactics a little bit,” he said of the Anteaters. “It’s less of a possession style and it’s more of a get it forward and prey on mistakes. We made a couple of mistakes in very short order and they, to their credit, capitalized on a couple of mistakes that we made.
“There’s no mystery in it. We’ve done the same thing. Unfortunately for us, we just didn’t manage it well enough, and hopefully we learn from it.”
UCSB began play on Sunday with a chance to win the Big West Conference regular-season championship.
In order for that to have happened, the Gauchos needed to beat Irvine and have Cal State Fullerton and Cal State Northridge finish in a draw.
Neither scenario played out.
Fullerton scored the go-ahead goal in the 78th minute and hung on for a 2-1 win, and the Gauchos had things unravel in the 80th. Still, it’s been a highly successful season for UCSB — which already had a spot locked up for the four-team Big West Conference Tournament before kicking off with Irvine. The Gauchos are the third seed and will play second-seeded CSUN on Thursday at Cal State Fullerton at 5 p.m.
“People with the right mindset take every test and they will look at themselves in the mirror and they’ll say, ‘What did we do well and why? What can we do better and how?’ And they get better down the road,” Stumpf said. “My hope is that the players in this program have a similar mindset to me.
“I learned some lessons today, and I’m better for it. I think the players are too, if they’re in the right place, mentally. I think they are.”
Senior forward Shaelan Murison, who entered the match as the nation’s third-leading goal scorer, gave the Gauchos a 1-0 lead with a 25-yard shot that hit the bottom of the crossbar and went behind the goal line in the 53rd. It was her 17th goal of the campaign.
Murison has been very good this season at scoring from outside the 18-yard box, and she proved it again on Sunday.
“What a great strike,” Stumpf said. “I’m so impressed at how much she’s grown up right in front of us in the four years she’s been here. There’s mental growth, there’s physical growth, there’s emotional growth.
“She’s a strong student here at UCSB, and I just love the way she has grown up in every aspect right in front of us.”
Murison has made it back-to-back strong seasons after leading the Gauchos in goals last year with 10.
While she and her teammates were disappointed with the result on Sunday, they look forward to a shot at CSUN in the conference tournament.
“It’s good that we made the tournament, that was our goal,” Murison said. “Obviously, we wanted to win conference, but being in the tournament is a good spot for us, so we’re just going to keep working.”
UCSB made it 2-0 in the 59th minute when Murison crossed a ball from the left side to midfielder Lauren Hess, who was wide open at the back post for a header and her first goal of the season.
Both teams finished with 11 shots. Eight of the Gauchos’ 11 shots were on frame.
UCSB, with 15 points, finished in a three-way tie for second with CSUN and Hawaii. Cal State Fullerton, by virtue of its victory over Northridge on Sunday, won the regular-season title with 18 points. The Titans host Hawaii in the Big West Conference Tournament’s other semifinal match on Thursday at 7 p.m.