It was do or die for the UCSB men’s water polo team.
This past weekend the Gauchos (6-17 overall, 1-8 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) battled Stanford for the eighth place seed in the MPSF championships at the USA Water Polo National Aquatic Center. The Cardinal beat Santa Barbara 10-8 and advanced in the tournament behind Jeff Nesmith’s 5 goals.
"It was one of our most important games of the season," freshman utility John Purcell said. "We could have beaten them, but they got a few fast breaks which put them ahead. On any day most of the teams can beat each other, but we couldn’t pull it off."
In the first quarter, Stanford put the pressure on the Gauchos with a goal, yet UCSB rose to the occasion when sophomore driver Kyle Ashley lobbed the ball past goalie Nick Ellis.
"We came prepared to play," Ashley said. "We came out much more intense than we did last time we played them, I think because it was a much more important match to us. We moved more on offense. They like to grab and counterattack. By moving and being more patient on offense, we shut down their counterattack."
In the second quarter, Stanford stepped it up, scoring twice as many points as the Gauchos for a 3-5 lead going into the third quarter. The Cardinal continued to build its lead and held a 3-point lead going into the fourth quarter.
"They had a few [goals] on nobody, which gave them the lead," Purcell said. "We had some letdowns in our offense, which led to our turnovers and gave them the fast break."
In the fourth quarter, sophomore driver Anthony Borasi stepped it up by scoring 2 goals and senior driver Paul Rave ended his season by scoring the Gauchos’ final goal of the season. But the Cardinal’s lead proved insurmountable and UCSB fell by 2.
"At the start of the fourth quarter, we came out intense and stole the ball a couple of times which got us back in the game," Ashley said. "It was a disappointing game by the fact that we lost, but we kept up with them the whole time. Our team improved over the course of the season and you can tell by looking at our level of play in the two games against Stanford."
"We played well," Borasi said. "Last time we played Stanford, they beat us by a lot but this game it was close the entire time. We continued to play better throughout the game. The fourth quarter was one of the team’s strongest performances – if there was another quarter we could have beaten them."
Borasi led the team in scoring with 3 goals. Rave, who led the team in scoring this season, punched in 2 goals. Ashley, junior driver Amit Seker and sophomore two-meter man Patrick Treman each scored 1 goal.