Gauchos prevail in shootout to win Big West title

SAN LUIS OBISPO — Given UCSB’s history of playing at Cal Poly, falling behind was not a good thing to do in the Big West Tournament championship game against the Mustangs at Alex G. Spanos Stadium.

But the Gauchos dug deep, scored an equalizing goal and then pulled through in a penalty-kick shootout to stun Cal Poly for their second straight title and NCAA Tournament berth.

Erica Seidman converted the deciding PK as UCSB won 5-4 after battling the Mustangs to a 1-1 tie through regulation and two overtime periods.

The NCAA Tournament draw will be announced today at 5 p.m. on ESPNews.

“I am very happy to be back in the NCAA Tournament,” said UCSB head coach Paul Stumpf. “These players worked so hard to get back and for them to get rewarded like this is fantastic.”

A miss by Cal Poly’s first shooter, Whitney Sisler, was the difference in the shootout. She pulled her shot wide of the mark against Gaucho goalkeeper Ali Cutler, who replaced starter Tammy Lenham for the shootout.

UCSB was a perfect 5 for 5 against Cal Poly’s Coral Hoover. The Gaucho shooters were Kailyn Kugler, Jacqui Simon, Cory Yoshida, Katy Roby and Seidman. Converting for Cal Poly were Kalena Andruss, Morgan Miller, Bianca Burright and Orand Mckenzie.

The Gauchos have struggled against Cal Poly over the years, and when they fell behind after dominating play in the first half it looked like those struggles would continue.

Miller took a pass from Burright, took one touch and beat Lenham to put the Mustangs ahead 1-0 in the 39th minute.

The Gauchos created some good chances but Hoover denied them with her stellar play. Her best save came against Erin Ortega. Ortega blasted a shot from 12 yards and Hoover dived to make the stop.

UCSB continued to apply pressure in the second half and finally broke through in the 69th minute. Roby took a quick feed from Yoshida, dribbled past two defenders and unleashed a shot from the right side that beat Hoover inside the far post for the tying goal.

The goal was the first allowed by Hoover since Oct. 4, a total of 747 minutes of shutout soccer.

“Katy pulled us out of the fire again,” Stumpf said. “She has done that before and it was huge for us today.”

The Gauchos threatened again in the 76th minute. Simon got free in the box and ripped a shot from 10 yards, but Hoover made a great reaction save.

In the 88th minute, a crossing pass landed at the feet of Genelle Ives at the far post, but she was unable to get off a shot.

UCSB, which was third-seeded in the Big West Tournament, will make its 10th NCAA Tournament appearance in program history with a record of 9-9-3.

“This season has been the ultimate rollercoaster ride,” Stumpf said. “We had the high expectations coming in and then, three games into the season, we had lost six really important players and things got tough.”

Cal Poly (14-5-1), which won the regular season title, hopes to receive an at-large berth.

Roby, who contributed to the game-winning goal in the semifinal win at Cal State Northridge, was named the MVP of the tournament.