The #5 UCSB men’s water polo team has begun its season 5-2, outscoring its opponents 71-41 in the process. While senior utilities Milos Golic and Zsombor Vincze have taken much of the spotlight this season because of their status as two of the best utilities in the nation, much of the team’s success is owed to two freshmen: driver Matt Gronow and 2-meter defender Lazar Komadinic.
“Both guys [Gronow and Komadinic] bring a new force that UCSB has not had in years,” Golic said.
The two are also housemates who live with Golic and Vincze at the team-dubbed “Embassy House” in Isla Vista, which was so named because none of the four live in the U.S.
Gronow came to Santa Barbara from Melbourne, Australia. His older brother, Chris, attended UCSB through an exchange program and also played for the men’s team.
“The game is more physical in Australia,” Gronow said. “I used to get kicked out [of matches] a lot, but I think I’ve adapted.”
Still, Gronow is tied for second on the team with 20 points. The 6’3” driver has five goals to go along with 15 assists in seven games this season.
“He is a powerhouse on the right side,” Golic said. “He will really help us.”
With aspirations to play for the Australian National team, Gronow had his first breakout game against #7 Pacific in the NorCal Tournament at UC Berkeley on Sept. 19, where he netted a hat-trick to lead the Gauchos to an 11-6 victory.
“It was a very promising performance,” Golic said.
Like Gronow, Komadinic’s road to UCSB began outside of the country. The Serbian native began playing water polo at a young age and was a member of the Serbian Junior National Team.
“His English is real bad,” Vincze said. “But he is actually really funny.”
Komadinic plays center back, a position described by polo players as one of the toughest in the game. However, the freshman has been doing a commendable job, impressing the teams’ top guns.
“He’s a really good player,” Golic said. “He is able to push other team’s 2-meters back and that pushes their whole offense back.”
Also like Gronow, Komadinic is accustomed to a more physical brand of water polo. He has committed several penalties in his first season as a Gaucho, including an ejection in the team’s last game against #6 UC Irvine within the first three minutes of the first period.
“He’s a little too aggressive,” said Golic, who also comes from Serbia. “He’ll need a few more games to adjust.”
Teammates consider Komadinic funny — sometimes because of his struggles with English.
“We all make fun of him for it,” Gronow said. “But we try to help him when we can.”
Still, Komadinic has fit well with the team.
“He’s actually a really chill guy,” Vincze said.
Out of the pool, Gronow has a tendency to talk in his sleep. He also sleepwalks, including one alleged incident in which Vincze woke up to Gronow standing over him.
“He was in a bear pose, ready to attack,” Vincze said.
Of the incident, Gronow claims he was awake and thought he was escaping spiders in his bed.
“I think [my sleepwalking] used to shock him,” Gronow said. “But now he’s used to it.”
Gronow, Komadinic and the rest of the Gaucho squad are currently preparing for the SoCal Tournament, which will be held at UCLA beginning Oct. 2. There, the team may have another chance to play Stanford, who has beaten UCSB in each of their past three meetings.
“Our ultimate team goal is a national title,” Gronow said.