The No. 5 UCSB men’s water polo team capped off its nonconference schedule with a 10-8 victory over No. 9 UCSD on the road Friday night.
The Gauchos improve to 12-6 overall and remain at 0-1 in conference play. The Tritons, on the other hand, suffered their third consecutive loss and drop to 11-6.
“We played well,” junior attacker Jesse Gillespie said. “We were up every counterattack and possession, and had a lot of energy.”
This match against UCSD featured a much closer battle than the first time these two teams went head-to-head on Oct. 1, when UCSB dominated to win 15-9. However, with the game in San Diego, UCSD took advantage of playing at their home pool.
“They had home-court advantage and a big home crowd,” Gillespie said. “But also, we had some forced offensive possessions and need to be more patient.”
Unlike their first game, where Santa Barbara ran away with the match with six first-quarter goals, the Gauchos weren’t able to find the back of the cage until freshman attacker Derek Shoemaker scored with 5:26 left in the first quarter.
UCSB scored two goals in the second quarter to stretch its halftime lead to 4-2. The Tritons then outscored the Gauchos in the third quarter 4-3 with goals from four separate players in order to keep the game within a point going into the pivotal fourth quarter.
“We knew that we’re a better team, so we just wanted to end the game, put away a few goals and just play defense,” Gillespie said.
UCSB dashed any hopes of an upset thanks to freshman utility Chase Racich, who scored the Gauchos’ final two goals to clinch the game. Racich led the Gauchos offensively with three goals.
“[Chase] can definitely put the ball in the back of the net,” Gillespie said. “He’s really stepping up as a true freshman and really playing a big role on our team.”
On the defensive end, Santa Barbara kept senior driver Graham Saber in check, limiting him to two goals in the evening and forcing others to step up. Sophomore driver Josh Stiling led the Tritons with a hat trick.
Gaucho sophomore keeper Jay Lovero was solid in goal yet again, tallying eight saves. On the other end, UCSD senior goalkeeper David Morton kept the Gauchos from running away with the lead with 13 saves.
“Jay had a lot of blocks and there were a lot of shots taken on goal,” Gillespie said. “It was good to have him on his game.”