UC Santa Barbara edges UH

The Hawaii soccer team was on its way to going the distance with UC Santa Barbara before a late slip allowed the Gauchos to emerge with a 1-0 victory on Sunday afternoon.

Madeline Gibson’s point-blank wide-angled shot set up by Cate Post along the goal line in the 83rd minute was the decider between two teams that entered the match with identical 3-2 Big West records. Now UCSB (11-6, 4-2) is in great position for a Big West tournament spot and UH (8-6-1, 3-3) must battle during its final two home games in order to attain a breakthrough in the top four of the standings.

“It was a tough game. This is the biggest field I think I’ve ever seen in my life. There was so much ground to cover,” coach Michele Nagamine said in a postgame phone interview. “I thought we struggled a little bit in the first half to kind of get a rhythm. Santa Barbara is a fantastic team. … They move the ball well. They’ve got a very athletic, pretty pacey team with multiple weapons.

“We lost tonight to a very, very good team. And they’ve had a hell of a season. They beat Cal, they’ve had some very, very good results. We knew coming in they were one of the top teams in the conference.”

For the moment, the Wahine sit in fifth with nine points; UC Davis (3-2-1) won Sunday to vault over UH into fourth with 10 points and two games to play. The Wahine host UC Riverside (11-2-3, 2-2-2) on Thursday and Cal State Fullerton (3-12-2, 0-5-1) on senior night Sunday.

“The good thing is, we come home, we’ve got two very big games on Thursday and Sunday,” Nagamine said. “We get two wins, and we’ve got nothing to worry about. That’s the mentality that we’re taking.”

On the scoring play Sunday, the ball looked really close to having crossed the line out of bounds, but apparently stayed in. No call was made; the ball has to clearly cross completely to be whistled out.

UCSB won the shots battle 18-6, and won the possession battle in general, although the Wahine had a couple of quality chances by Raisa Strom-Okimoto in the first half coming off her hat trick in a 4-0 win at Cal Poly on Friday.

“I told the team, ‘eh, at one point we would’ve killed to go 1-1 on the road in the Big West,’ ” Nagamine said. “But I think it says a lot about the kids and how hungry they are, because they’re not satisfied. They feel like they left some things on the table tonight.”

Goalkeeper Lex Mata recorded five saves in the loss.

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