With its playoff dreams well-alive, the UCSB women’s soccer team faced Long Beach State this Sunday in their final regular season game. Senior midfielder Dylan Lewis seized the opportunity to make history on a penalty kick, making the quickest ever goal in a game this season at only 42 seconds. The Gauchos were determined to hold onto their lead, and despite only a moment of uncertainty, an impressive shot by senior Claire Grouwinkel allowed the Gauchos to prevail 2-1.
With this momentous win, the Gauchos (5-8-6, 4-3-3) forced Long Beach State (6-5-6, 5-1-3) into its first conference loss, clinching a spot in the Big West Tournament.
The Gauchos wasted absolutely no time to light up the scoreboard. Not even a minute into the game, a tousle for possession on the right side of the goal resulted in a penalty on Long Beach. Senior Dylan Lewis took the opportunity, placing a swift shot into the top right corner of the net. Action did not diminish in the first half as fierce offense from both sides kept goalkeepers on their toes. Sophomore Manuri Alwis was on the attack with a close shot at the bottom of the net. Momentous defense, including a tremendous save by senior Evann Smith, allowed the Gauchos to hold a 1-0 lead in the first half.
The Gaucho’s entered the second half determined to keep hold of their advantage with a four-person lineup change. However, their defense couldn’t match Maddy Perez’s agility. Following a deflection by Evann Smith, Perez was quick to take advantage and launch it into the top right corner of the goal. The Beach tied the Gauchos 1-1.
UCSB was not deterred, aiming to once again lead over Long Beach. In a spectacular play, a pressured Melanie Mikoy passed to senior Claire Grouwinkel. Growinkel, contested against defense, rocketed the ball into the top right of the goal over the hands of the out-stretched Beach keeper, giving the Gauchos a 2-1 lead.
The Gauchos and Beach continued to battle with more excellent defense. A save by Smith and the brilliant shot by Grouwinkel granted the Gauchos’ 2-1 victory over Long Beach State. The significant win marks the Gaucho’s clinching of the Big West Conference playoffs.
“Nobody outside of what we do knows how much these kids commit to this and that’s why when we win, the emotion is so massive,” said Head Coach Paul Stumpf. “Because [they] work so hard, I am pleased when they get rewarded for all of that effort. That is gold.”
Daniel Moebus-Bowles writes about sports for UCSB.