The UC Santa Cruz Women's Soccer squad opened the fall 2011 season on the road in Clinton near Jackson the capital of Mississippi under humid and stormy skies. Tropical Storm Lee threatened to open up as well. The weather did little to slow down the Slugs as they proved they could put the tough season of 2010 behind them. They capped off the weekend with wins against hosts Mississippi College 2-1, visiting Berry (GA) in overtime 1-0, and host Millsaps 4-1. The hard work and dedication that went into the teams' overall physical fitness and mental improvement was key after the 2010 season left a bad taste and was one of the first seasons in a while where the lady slugs did not advance to the NCAA post-season playoffs. On a drizzly Thursday afternoon, sophomore forward #12 Michele Stathatos opened up the scoring on the season for the Slugs by slotting away a 1v1 opportunity from a flicked ball from teammate and captain #2 Ritz Hernandez. On a punt from junior goalkeeper #1 Monica Chazen, Hernandez kept the ball moving and headed it into Michele's path to create the opening opportunity for the team. In the second half, several players came off the bench to perform well for UCSC. Sophomore defender #22 Chay Thomas sent a well-placed ball on through to sophomore #5 Justine Dougherty who rocketed a cross to freshman newcomer Sara Saddler who headed the ball home after a dynamic run near-post for her first collegiate career goal. The Choctaws of Mississippi College would not go quietly and managed to slip in their chance in the second half making the score 2-1, but the Slugs would hold on for their first win of the 2011 season.
The Slugs played visiting Berry College of Georgia two days later to a thrilling 1-0 double overtime win. Michele Stathatos struck again at the 103 minute mark, slotting home a ball where she was able to catch the Berry Keeper out of position. Michele had this to say about her OT goal which marked her second goal in two straight games:
"Throughout the full 90 minutes of the game and double over time, every person on the field had played hard and with passion. This game was really important to us—we wanted to have our second win of the season, to overcome the struggles of last year and beat our 2010 record. When I scored the goal in overtime I turned around to see my whole team running towards me, everyone with huge smiles on their faces, and I knew that this season would be nothing like last season. I've never been so excited about scoring a goal before—it's one that I'll always remember."
Moving on to their third game in five days, the fitness regime of the Slugs shined through as they did not slow down a bit on Millsaps Major's fast-playing turf field. Senior midfielder #10 Adriana "Moose" Moosekian opened the scoring by sending a shot into the back of the net on a rebound off a corner kick only minutes into the first half. Junior captain #6 Brooke Atkinson continued the scoring efforts by lobbing in a shot to complete the first half. The Slugs proved dangerous again on set-pieces where a Ritz Hernandez corner kick and an effective run by Brooke Atkinson forced a Major's own goal during a scramble in the box. The Majors rallied back to try and counter the Slug domination of the game by slotting away a goal amidst some confusion brought on by a preemptory whistle from the referee who was going to call a PK but let the advantage play out. The Majors fans tried to hop on board the comeback, but the Slugs would have none of it when freshman Sara Saddler struck again for her second goal of the season with another near-post attack on a cross from sophomore #18 Sofia Pasarow. The 4-1 win completed the Slugs' victories in their adventures down south to Mississippi.
Junior Captain Brooke Atkinson reflected on the positive beginning to the 2011 season, saying, "This season we got to start off 3-0 instead of 0-3. We are a new team with new confidence and a new attitude. With the obvious hardships of last season gone it finally feels like we can compete with any team. Other teams will look at our record from last year and underestimate us. Little do they know that we are the team to beat and we won't go down without a fight."