Stoltz, four other Gauchos put Mustangs on ice

The chance to play for an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament came down to a shootout at Harder Stadium on Thursday night, and Sarah Stoltz stood ready to take the shot that would send the UCSB women’s soccer team into the Big West Conference final at Long Beach State.

Without hesitation, like four Gauchos before her, the midfielder sent a low ball to the corner that zipped past the reach of Cal Poly keeper Coral Hoover and into the back of the net. Like a scripted movie, Stoltz ran back to her teammates arms widespread to celebrate their conference tournament semifinal victory over the Mustangs.

“I was scared. I was so scared,” admitted Stoltz, but said she wanted to be in that position. “I knew I had to do it. I was less nervous once that girl missed and I just knew I was going to do it.”

“That was pretty intense as far as PKs go,” said freshman goalkeeper Ali Cutler, who experienced one last year in the CCS finals at Archbishop Mitty. “But it’s a good spot for the keeper because they’re not expected to do anything.”

Cutler didn’t have to do much as the first four Mustangs scored before forward Ashley Vallis knocked her ball off the outside of the right post.

Stumpf actually did expect something from Hoover after seeing her slow reactions in a penalty kick situation before.

“All we needed were kids who could pass the ball firmly into the corner,” Stumpf said. “On Tuesday and Wednesday, we had every kid take four or five penalty kicks and we just picked those kids who could.”

One of his contest winners, sophomore Erica Seidman, was as cold as could be, having not played a minute of the 110-minute game. Yet each Gaucho called upon – Kailyn Kugler, Jacqui Simon, Seidman, Cory Yoshida, then Stoltz – deftly knocked the ball into the corner.

“It’s surreal, it really is,” said Genelle Ives, who put the Gauchos up 1-0 with a header off a Alissa Sanchez cross in the first half. “I’m just super proud of Stultzy and everyone who stepped up and put that ball away. Double overtime is not easy on you’re body and everyone stayed focused and did their job.”

Ives’ first-half score was her ninth, tops for the Gauchos.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better ball. I just stood there and it came right to me. Right place at the right time. That’s soccer for you.”

Indeed, Thursday night was soccer at its most thrilling.