Despite holding the lead for much of the game, the #7 UCSB men’s water polo team lost to #4 UCLA 9-8 at the UCSB Campus Pool.
“We came and matched them exactly evenly and we put ourselves in a position to win,” Head Coach Wolf Wigo said. “We just didn’t execute at the very end of the game. Missed a great opportunity.”
The Gaucho’s (10-10 overall, 1-6 MPSF) have lost five in a row, all to Mountain Pacific Sports Federation opponents. UCLA’s win was its last regular season game, finishing the season with an 18-4 record.
“This is a really dangerous team. They’re a serious team, so I knew it wasn’t going to be an easy game.” UCLA Head Coach Adam Wright said. “We needed to make some stops throughout the end and we were able to.”
The Gauchos and Bruins battled throughout the game with neither team leading by more than a two score advantage at any point. UCSB started the game aggressively, scoring on the opening possession via a bounced shot by freshman 2M Lazar Komadinic. UCLA responded quickly with a goal of its own when senior center Jacob Murphy backhanded one into the left side of the net from near the 2m line.
In the second quarter, UCSB senior utility player Milos Golic scored three goals and fellow senior Zsombor Vincze scored one, giving the Gauchos a 6-5 lead.
Though the second half was primarily a defensive affair, the intensity increased in the fourth quarter when UCLA tied the game up 7-7 early into the period. A few minutes later, UCSB’s Vincze scored off of a shot deflected by the UCLA goalie. UCLA tied the game up once again though when utility player Josh Samuels rebounded a missed shot and scored for the 8-8 tie.
Less than a minute later, UCLA’s physical style of play paid off once again when Murphy netted the game-deciding goal from around the 2 meter line. UCSB’s Golic and Gronow attempted to equalize it and force overtime, but UCLA managed to stop the Gauchos on consecutive possessions to close out the match.
“We need a little more intensity and motivation in the last two minutes. It seemed like throughout the game that we can win the game.” Golic said. “We had the lead almost three quarters. I think people were really scared, we didn’t have that motivation in the last moment to pull it out.”
Throughout the game, the Gauchos had difficulty stopping UCLA from getting the ball inside and exploiting its opportunities near the net. The game winning goal was the third of the day for UCLA’s Murphy and his second from near the 2 meter line, where UCSB allowed four of UCLA’s nine goals.
“We have trouble with that against other teams too, I think that’s a thing that we need to be improved for the coming [conference] tournament.” Golic said. “That’s basically where everything’s going to be determined. “If we play this way with a little more velocity, I think we can pass the first round [of the tournament].”
The Gauchos will finish off its regular season on Nov. 20 against Pepperdine University at Campus Pool. Both teams are tied for seventh place in the MPSF.
“[It’s] very disappointing to lose a game like this at home, but at the same time we’re playing well and we’re going to try to take that momentum into the conference tournament.” Wigo said.