The UCSB men’s club water polo team finished second in the state championships this weekend in San Luis Obispo, beating UC Berkeley and UC Davis on Saturday before losing to UCLA on Sunday.
The Gauchos (8-6 overall), the third seed in the tournament, lost a close match against the first-seeded Bruins, 6-5 in the finals. After UCSB’s first score, UCLA came back to take a 2-1 lead, and did not let the Gauchos regain the lead after that despite the game remaining very close throughout.
“We had a lot of missed opportunities and that was the difference,” senior driver Chris Holmblad said.
“It was a back and forth game,” junior captain Paul Nagle added. “We played pretty good.”
The Gauchos got the rematch they wanted after losing to UCLA in the Southern Regional Finals last weekend, but unfortunately the result was the same despite a closer game.
In the first round on Saturday, the Gauchos beat Berkeley 7-4. Later that day, they played to a 7-7 tie in the semifinals before coming away victorious by a score of 8-7 in overtime.
“Berkeley was an easier game, but Davis was a nail-biter the whole way through,” Holmblad said.
UCSB entered the tournament ranked fifth in the country, but played tough competition, going against #9 Berkeley, #4 Davis and #2 Los Angeles. The Gauchos’ final ranking of the season will be determined Thursday, Oct. 28 when the Collegiate Water Polo Association releases its national rankings.
The tournament marks the end of the season for the Gauchos, as only UCLA, the state’s highest-ranked team will go on to play for the National Championship. Nationals take just one team from each region, and UCSB has no shame in losing to a very good team.
“They should win the whole thing,” Holmblad said of UCLA.
Although they dropped the game to UCLA, the Gauchos second place finish in the state is one place better than last year.
“We’re pretty happy with second place,” Holmblad said. “It’s the highest we’ve finished. It would’ve been nice to win, but [it would’ve been tough] for our team to go out to Utah for the tournament. Usually not everyone makes it to tournaments in LA or San Diego.”
This weekend’s matches marked the first time that all of the team’s starters played in a tournament together.
“We played pretty good because it was the first game we all played together,” Holmblad said. “For not practicing [with our complete team] at all, we did pretty good.”
The Gauchos can now look forward to next season knowing that they will bring back a talented team that gained valuable experience this year, and almost finished first in the state.
“It was a good run,” Nagle said.