UCSB men’s water polo, ranked sixth in the nation, lost an 8-6 heartbreaker to #4 Stanford (8-5 overall, 2-1 MPSF) yesterday at Campus Pool. Despite poor weather, the bleachers were full to the brim with fans as they watched the Gauchos (9-5 overall, 0-1 MPSF) battle the Cardinal only to come up short.
“It was definitely disappointing,” freshman driver Matt Gronow said. “After a game like this, you kind of feel like you let the whole crowd down.”
After nearly four minutes of defensive play for both teams in the first quarter, senior utility Milos Golic initiated the scoring to give UCSB a 1-0 lead. The Serbian native’s goal woke up a sleeping Cardinal team, though, as they responded with two goals of their own.
With only two seconds left in the first quarter, Stanford received their first penalty shot of the day and quickly converted it to take a 4-2 lead heading into the second quarter.
Both offenses slowed down as Santa Barbara was held scoreless in the second quarter while the Cardinal scored one goal off of their second penalty shot of the day.
Down by three goals at half, UCSB was determined to fight back. It mounted an attack in the third quarter, scoring three goals. However, the Gauchos still had no answer for the Cardinal offense as they put up another two goals, taking a 7-5 lead into the fourth quarter.
The Gauchos managed to score one goal in the period, but could not keep Stanford from scoring again. Then, with a two-goal lead, Stanford let the clock run out to take an 8-6 victory.
Much to the crowd’s and Head Coach Wolf Wigo’s dismay, the Cardinal received three penalty shots and several other calls in the game.
“There is always going to be a debate on the referees,” Gronow said. “Sometimes it goes our way, but others it doesn’t.”
For Golic, the team simply lacked motivation.
“They hustled more than us,” Golic said. “They wanted it more than we did.”
Senior utility Zsombor Vincze was not able to contribute for the entirety of the match, suffering multiple ejections throughout the game. In one instance, Vincze kicked a ball out of frustration while exiting the pool, and the referee penalized him with a red card.
After losing their first Big West game, UCSB will now look to finish its conference schedule strong. If it does, the Gauchos still have a shot at reaching the NCAA Championships at the end of the season.
“How we bounce back from this loss is going to define our season,” sophomore utility Brian Shoemaker said.
UCSB’s conference games continue with a match against Long Beach State in Santa Barbara on Oct. 23.