When the California Community College Athletic Association released its initial state and regional women's soccer polls earlier this week, the Ventura College women's soccer team was conspicuous by its absence.
Perhaps at any other moment in its history, Ventura, which has won more than 80 percent of its matches since first kicking a ball in 1996, would belong among the ranked elite.
But, when the poll was released Tuesday, the Pirates were mired in the longest losing streak in school history.
"It's been a reality check," sophomore midfielder Shayna Pettersen said.
Although the four-match losing streak, which ended with a 4-1 win over Santa Monica on Tuesday night, didn't necessarily incite panic.
"We were in every one of those games," coach Steve Hoffman said. "We should have probably got a draw in several of them."
The competition has been of the highest caliber. Four of VC's five losses have come against unbeaten teams ranked in the top 10 of the NSCAA national coaches poll. No. 1 Santiago Canyon, No. 3 Cerritos, No. 8 Cypress and No. 9 Canyons entered the week a combined 20-0-3.
"The kids have got to cut themselves a little bit of slack," Hoffman said. "It's not your normal schedule because of the quality of the teams we've played. It's been a good challenge and the kids have actually done quite well."
Which isn't to say there hasn't been issues. Problems at the back have meant Hoffman has yet to start the same lineup twice. Goalkeeper Katelyn White (Camarillo High) was out with a shoulder injury for most of the streak and the back four has been musical chairs.
Freshman Shayne Wells (Oxnard High) is the only settled member of the defense. Fullback Dakota Thompson (Ventura) is out with a broken hand and, recently, Hoffman has moved freshman forward Taylor C'debaca (Agoura) to fullback and sophomore midfielder Danielle Cook (Ventura) to central defender in an effort to stop the bleeding.
The rest of the team has been steady. The attacking trident of Daisy Cardona (Buena), Breanna Naranjo (Pacifica), and Yasmin Lepez (Pacifica) has combined for 11 goals and six assists. Playmaker Lupita Magana (Santa Paula) already has three goals and four assists and the rest of midfield, wingers Stephanie Hernandez (Ventura) and A.J. Tewes (Buena) and organizer Pettersen (Oxnard), has been solid.
Knowing there is no more room for error, Ventura (4-5) hosts Bakersfield tonight before opening Western State Conference play Sept. 28 against Hancock.
The Pirates have never lost more than six matches in a season.