The UCSB women’s soccer team entered the 2008 season with the hopes that it could muster more offense than the 2007 team. If the first game is a decent indicator, that will be the case.

The Gauchos opened the season on the road at the University of Nevada, and propelled by a three-goal first half, routed the Wolf Pack by a score of 4-0.

UCSB jumped on top at the 16:47 mark when senior forward Michelle Russell took a pass from sophomore midfielder Jacqui Simon, got past the defenders, and beat Nevada goalkeeper Sarah Hunt for the first goal of the match and season. The score was a harbinger as the Gauchos continued to perform on the offensive end.

In the 31st minute, it was sophomore forward Kailyn Kugler, the 2007 Big West Freshman of the Year, who got into the act. She stole a pass just above the Wolf Pack penalty box and scored on a one-on-one confrontation with Wolf, the Nevada goalie.

The Gauchos made it 3-0 in the closing minutes of the first half. Freshman Alissa Sanchez, who did not play in the team’s exhibition match on Saturday against Westmont, took a feed from Kugler and blasted a shot past Hunt, giving UCSB a 3-0 edge at halftime

Santa Barbara wasted little time increasing the lead in the second half. Junior forward Genelle Ives, who missed the 2007 season with a knee injury, made her return a memorable one. Ives dribbled the ball down the left side and scored, unassisted, at 49:49, to give her team an insurmountable 4-0 lead. The goal was the 15th of Ives’ career.

Freshman goalkeeper Ali Cutler, who had been nursing an injured quad, started the match and played the first 60 minutes, posting one save and allowing no goals. Another freshman, Laura DiBiase, closed the deal for the Gauchos, playing the final 30 minutes and tossing a shutout.

UCSB played 12 newcomers, including nine freshman, in its opening match of the season. Entering the season, the Gauchos’ recruiting class was ranked 38th in the nation by Soccer Buzz Magazine, and group proved up to the challenge.

Santa Barbara will remain on the road for its second game of the year on Tuesday, when it travels to Los Angeles to play second-ranked UCLA. The match had been scheduled for 7 p.m. at Drake Stadium on the Westwood Campus, but it has been moved to 4 p.m. at the North Athletic Field.

The Gauchos will play their first home match on Friday when they take-on the 21st-ranked University of San Diego.

Bill Mahoney is UCSB‘s assistant athletics director.