SANTA BARBARA, Calif – With postseason implications underlying the UC Santa Barbara women's soccer team's home finale against CSUN Thursday night, the Gauchos found themselves in a less-than-ideal situation down a goal entering the final third of the match.
However, on Senior Night, it was the juniors who would step up in a big way, as midfielder Lynsee Voss put away a pair of clutch goals and goalkeeper Hanna DeWeese tallied four huge second half saves to send the Gauchos (12-6, 5-2) home winners for the third straight game, 2-1.
"I knew my team would come back and fight because that's just who we are," DeWeese said. "It's really exciting. We just need to keep playing our game and stay focused."
The resilient second half not only gave UCSB its first come-from-behind win during conference play, but it also saw the Gauchos clinch their first postseason berth since 2015.
"We knew the game was going to open up a bit in the second half," head coach Paul Stumpf said. "Hanna had a great night tonight. We go down 1-0 and she has to come up big to keep it at 1-0, and then at 1-1. Just an incredible performance by her, and I don't use those words very often, but an incredible performance."
While DeWeese – among others – took care of things on the defensive end, Voss would shine on the attacking front, doubling her season goal total within the span of eight minutes.
Trailing 1-0 in the 63rd minute, the Simi Valley, Calif. native was the recipient of a weak Matador clearance, finding herself in space along the edge of the 18-yard box before firing in a perfectly placed shot inside the far right post.
"Technically speaking, on a surface like this, that was a difficult shot," Stumpf said. "It's very difficult to keep a half-volley low. She tucked it away nicely in the corner. Thank goodness we evened it up, so we could get after them for the next goal."
Early in the 71st, the Gauchos pushed forward looking to take their first lead of the night. Tight passing down the right side would set up Voss in a great position 10 yards out, but she stumbled. A fortuitous bounce off the foot of teammate Katherine Sheehy would place the ball right back at Voss' feet, as she tucked it away through traffic and past an out-of-position Matador keeper.
HAVE A NIGHT LYNSEE VOSS!— Big West W-Soccer (@BigWestWSOC) October 26, 2018
The @UCSBWomenSoccer junior with the brace (63' & 70') to put the Gauchos in the driver's seat for the #BigWest ��.#UCSB (5-2) head to the #BlueGreen Sunday, 2pm PT where a win will lead to the coronation.#GauchoPride | #PlayBig pic.twitter.com/NeULRY0iRI
Santa Barbara is now the only team with five Big West wins this season, currently sitting atop the conference standings with 15 points. With a win in their regular season finale Sunday at Cal Poly, the Gauchos can clinch their first regular season Big West Championship since 2004.
"You can hear them in the locker room, they're obviously celebrating," Stumpf said. "They know the situation, and hopefully they'll make the right decisions over the next few days, allow their bodies to recover, and get their minds right so we can have another big performance on Sunday."
In what turned out to be an action-packed night, a slow-paced first half provided just three shots, all belonging to the Gauchos. That would quickly change coming out of halftime, as two shots in quick succession would see CSUN's (6-8-1, 2-5) Bethany Fitzsimmons open the scoring on a rebound tap-in in the 51st minute.
The Matadors recorded five shot attempts in the second half to UCSB's nine, with the Gauchos taking a 12-5 edge overall.
While Voss and DeWeese's contributions eventually separated themselves in the box score, Santa Barbara's seniors wouldn't end their final games at Harder Stadium without receiving some much-deserved recognition from their coach.
"All of the seniors contributed in a very big way tonight. Those six kids are going to be very difficult to replace, not just for the soccer, but the character, the leadership, the competitiveness," Stumpf said. "It was a very special win."
UCSB plays its regular season finale against Cal Poly this Sunday, Oct. 28 at 2:00 p.m. at Alex G. Spanos Stadium.