Nobody can argue with the results the Hawaii women’s soccer team earned during non-conference play, posting a 7-1-1 record and climbing to No. 8 in the NSCAA West Region poll. But that all gets thrown out the window at 4 p.m. HST Friday when the Rainbow Wahine open Big West Conference play at Cal Poly.
“We had a great preseason,” senior goalkeeper Monk Berger said last week. “Now we’re back to 0-0-0. Conference play is starting and we’re really stoked about that.”
The Rainbow Wahine have the chance to prove their merit against two of the best teams the Big West has to offer, visiting UC Santa Barbara on Oct. 2 after their bout with the Mustangs on Sept. 30. Cal Poly enters the week at 5-5-1 and is ranked No. 7 in the West. The Mustangs are 3-1-1 this season against the perennially-tough West Coast Conference, and are coming off a 2-1 loss to No. 26 Pepperdine followed by a 2-1 against Seattle U last week.
The Mustangs will be without midfielder Emily Hansen against Hawai’i, after Hansen earned a red card via a pair of yellows in Cal Poly’s win against Seattle U. Hansen has started 10 of Cal Poly’s 11 games this season.
The road doesn’t get any easier for Hawaii after Friday’s matchup. On Oct. 2 the Rainbow Wahine visit UC Santa Barbara, which owns a 9-1-1 record, is receiving votes in the national poll, is ranked No. 3 in the West, and enters the game coming off a week’s rest. Gaucho goalkeeper Brittney Rogers has accumulated six solo shutouts already this season and has allowed just three goals in more than 800 minutes for a 0.34 goals-against average with a .893 save-percentage.
Rogers isn’t the only weapon the Gauchos feature. Forward Amanda Ball ranks second the Big West and 13th in the nation with eight goals this season, while Shaelan Murison and Mallory Hromatko have each netted four. UC Santa Barbara rattled off an eight-game winning streak to start the season before going 1-1-1 in its last three contests.
Hawai’i will counter the Mustangs and Gauchos with a lineup that features two of the best offensive players in the Big West in Raisa Strom-Okimoto and Addie Steiner. Both have scored four goals this season and Strom-Okimoto has added five assists to lead the conference in assists per game while her 13 points rank third.
While the Hawai’i offense—which has scored in all nine matches this season—is a strength, the Rainbow Wahine defense is equally as imposing. The seven goals Hawai’i has allowed this season are tied for the second fewest in the Big West and Berger’s 50 saves are also good for second in the league.
A free live web stream as well as live stats of Friday’s game at Cal Poly will be available at gopoly.com, and fans can also follow live stats of Sunday’s contest at UC Santa Barbara at ucsbgauchos.com.
Games 10 & 11
Who: Hawai’i (7-1-1, 0-0-0 BWC) at Cal Poly (5-5-1, 0-0-0 BWC); UC Santa Barbara (9-1-1, 0-0-0 BWC)
When: Friday, Sept. 30 (4:00 p.m. HT/7 p.m. PT); Sunday, Oct. 2 (11:00 a.m. HT/2:00 p.m. PT)
Where: San Luis Obispo, Calif.; Santa Barbara, Calif.
Streaming Video: gopoly.com; None
Live Stats: gopoly.com; ucsbgauchos.com