August 17, 2009

Women's Soccer Preview Day 1: The Forwards

Aug. 17, 2009

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Some would say that the climb to the top is not as difficult as the challenge to stay there.

In 2008, the UCSB women's soccer team didn't quite get to the top, but it took a major step, winning its first Big West Conference tournament title and advancing to its first NCAA Tournament since 1991.

The journey back to the postseason was a long one, but the Gauchos may not have to wait as long for their next visit. They seem pretty well equipped to make a run in 2009 and beyond.

This is the first in a three-part series previewing the 2009 UCSB women's soccer season which kicks-off on Thursday, Aug. 20 with a 7:00 p.m. exhibition game against Westmont College at Meredith Field at Harder Stadium.

First, we will look at the forwards.

A look at the Gaucho forwards and the first player who catches your attention is senior Genelle Ives.

After missing the 2007 season while recovering from a knee injury, Ives bounced back in a major way in 2008. She was chosen Big West Offensive Player of the Year and First Team All-Big West after scoring nine goals and seven assists for 25 points. It isn't, however, just the numbers that Ives puts on the board that makes her so valuable, it's the attention she draws from opposing defenders.

"She causes so much trouble for other teams," began 11th-year head coach Paul Stumpf. "Because of her willingness to chase and pressure on the defensive end, and her willingness to work to get into dangerous scoring position, she draws all of the attention of the opposing teams. That creates space for others. That's what Genelle brings to the table for us and sometimes we lose sight of it."

According to Stumpf, there are three players who should reap the benefit of Ives' presence up front for the Gauchos: Juniors Kylie McDonald and Kailyn Kugler, and sophomore Alissa Sanchez.

"When Genelle is healthy and playing 80-percent of the minutes at the target striker, there are actually three players who benefit greatly," Stumpf said. "Kylie McDonald will get more one-on-one opportunities because the two center backs are going to stay central on Genelle, they don't want to leave her solo. Kailyn Kugler gets 1-v-1s, as will Alissa Sanchez, who came back in great shape."

McDonald was a Second Team All-Big West honoree in 2008, scoring five goals and tying for the team-lead in assists with eight. Her 18 points tied her with Kugler for third on the team. After scoring six goals as a freshman in 2007, Kugler had another productive year as a sophomore going for seven goals and four assists. Sanchez, one of the speediest players on the team, had a pair of goals and two assists in her initial season at UCSB.

A duo of freshmen are - Victoria Thomas and Lauren Kennedy - figure to play a part in UCSB's plans in 2009.

"Victoria Thomas will play target striker and wide striker," predicted Stumpf. "She has exceeded our expectations. Lauren Kennedy will also play at wide striker and should get a lot of minutes. She has good skills and solid speed."

And exactly what is Stumpf's final assessment of his forwards?

"We are deep and talented up front," Stumpf concluded. "This should be a fun group to watch."

Unless you are an opposing defense.

Women's soccer fans, new this year, donations to The Gaucho Fund - regardless of the sport it supports - will be part of the "One Donation is Gold" system. This allows donors to purchase priority/premium seating and parking at UCSB games across several sports in addition to other benefits.

If you donate to women's soccer, you will have the opportunity to purchase tickets in the Gold Zone (priority/premium seats) at Harder Stadium for men's soccer, which includes priority parking and cushioned chair-backed seating. No longer will separate donations need to be made to secure priority seating to different UCSB sports. One donation, one fund: The Gaucho Fund.

Season tickets for the 2009 men's soccer season are on sale for only five bucks a game. Fans who purchase 2009 season tickets will be guaranteed the opportunity to buy tickets for the 2010 Men's NCAA College Cup hosted by UCSB at Meredith Field at Harder Stadium Dec. 10-12, 2010. To accompany the successful "Soccer Town, USA" slogan as part of the College Cup bid, a discounted family valued offer is also available where a family of five can catch games for only $2.50 per game! Family Plan package also includes three free youth t-shirts and memberships to the new UCSB kids club: GKids. Fans can easily buy tickets online or by calling 805-893-UCSB. To purchase your tickets click here.

Tomorrow: The midfield

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