Photo by Lluvia Moreno

The Lions and Cannoneers were no match for the unstoppable Banana Slugs at the American Collegiate Athletic Association (ACAA) women’s soccer tournament last weekend. 

With 46 shots on goal, 19 goals scored and zero goals allowed in two games, UC Santa Cruz’s top-ranked women’s soccer team put on a fiery performance to come out on top.

“Our team is full of hard workers, and it’s been an ongoing journey throughout this season to get better with every training and every game,” said Lauren Nadler, UCSC women’s soccer coach. “We’ve been able to improve with our committed players, and it’s a tribute to their hard work ethic this year.”

After 11 wins, 3 losses and 2 ties in their first year in the ACAA conference, 2019 is UCSC’s first time hosting a conference tournament. New York’s Pratt Institute Cannoneers, Michigan’s Finlandia University Lions and Oakland’s Mills College Cyclones gathered on the Lower East Field on Nov. 2-3.

Cheers from the team’s canopied bench and applause from the crowd of students, parents and even Chancellor Cindy Larive energized the Slugs. The referee’s game-opening whistle prompted the UCSC bench to light up with shouts as the home team called out to each other in their calculated frenzy to control the ball and the game.

The Slugs wasted no time getting on the scoreboard in the opening game against the Cannoneers.

UCSC forward Amelia Streiffer scored her first of two goals on an assist from forward Tomiko Hoshijima in the third minute of the game. Successive goals by Hoshijima, Streiffer, forward Chella Grattet and midfielder Caitlin Pieper gave the Banana Slugs an impressive 5-0 lead by halftime.  

Early goals by UCSC forwards Allison Farr, Jamie Floyd and Celine Ertekin and a late goal by defender Eleanor Spiller in the second half secured the Banana Slugs’ 12-0 victory against the Cannoneers.

“For us, this was just a fun time to come out to California, play our hearts out and have a last good game with our seniors,” said Pratt Captain Carly Klein. “We’re really proud to be in the NCAA, and we’re proud that we were able to beat the teams we needed to beat, and score the goals we needed to score to get our plane ticket here and have a good time.”

A victorious Santa Cruz team circled up as music blared on the speakers to celebrate their overwhelming semifinal win. 

“As soon as we step on the field, we are always serious, even when we were beating teams by a lot and were being successful,” said UCSC forward Karina Bulli. “[Games] were never an easy, fun time because we always need to get better and because we know what our standard is and we always need to be achieving it and going above and beyond.” 

Day two of the tournament pitted the Slugs against the Finlandia Lions in the championship match.

UCSC forward Maya Gonzales and midfielder Katie Herm both found the back of the net within five minutes of the first half, but Finlandia remained aggressive for ball possession throughout the match. Defender Peyton Bell and midfielder Nicole Aceves bumped the Slugs’ lead to 4-0 about 15 minutes later, edging the team closer to the title. 

“The first game we had [this season] we lost 4-0, which was a really bad loss,” Bulli said. “After the game we all got in a circle and talked about how this will not happen again, about all the work we were going to put into the games and how we were going to change our style of play […] so that we could have a better season, and it really ended up working.” 

Santa Cruz never faltered in its discipline and offensive pressure throughout the Finlandia match. Late goals by Bulli, Aceves and midfielder Julia Hernandez secured a 7-0 championship victory. 

“The way we are as a team is taking everything one game at a time, so I wouldn’t say we expect to do well, but it’s always our goal to win every single game,” defender Jess Goucher said. “We had such a good season, and winning the championship is good, but I don’t think we ever sat down and said ‘this is our goal, we’re going to win this, and we expect to win this.’”

Photo by Lluvia Moreno

While Banana Slug parents cheered on the bleachers and the Lions walked back to their bench, the UCSC women’s soccer team rendezvoused at center field to celebrate its first conference title since 2015 with team photos and an official championship plaque.

After two core players were injured early in the season and with many brand new freshmen on the team, this year’s women’s soccer team finished the season as champions.

“[Winning] is the cherry on top of being the underdogs in so many scenarios and still finishing off the season well,” Goucher said. “We are an underdog team in a lot of our matchups when we play harder teams. We can feel that they don’t expect a lot from us. It’s really good to just take it to them and prove them wrong.”