After defeating No. 9 Long Beach State 10-6 on Saturday to secure its first Mountain Pacific Sports Federation conference win, the UCSB men’s water polo team fell to No. 2 USC on Sunday. The Trojans proved to be too much to handle, beating the Gauchos 10-6. Santa Barbara now stands at 12-7 overall with a conference record of 1-2.
“It was a great win versus Long Beach [because] it’s hard to go down to their pool and beat them,” junior attacker Jesse Gillespie said. “Against USC, we put up a big fight, but we weren’t able to get the win.”
Playing at home for the first time since Sept. 24, Santa Barbara came out strong against USC. The first quarter saw a back-and-forth game, ending with a tied score at 2-2.
“We came out with a lot of intensity,” Gillespie said. “We really wanted to win this game and it would’ve been great to break into the top four.”
However, USC ended the second quarter with three consecutive goals, which gave the team a two-goal cushion heading into halftime.
“They were scoring everything,” sophomore attacker Matt Gronow said. “Their set plays were working well — credit USC, everything went really well for them.”
The Gauchos pulled within one to begin the third period, but the Trojans responded with three goals to double UCSB’s total 8-4. From there, USC never gave up control of the match.
While the Trojans stuck to their game plan with a balanced attack, sophomore two-meter defender and MPSF Player of the Week Jeremy Davie put the team on his back in the third, scoring two of his three goals and helping the Trojans to pull away.
The USC defense held the Gauchos to just six goals, well below their average of 12 per game. As a team, USC currently leads the MPSF defensively, allowing an average of just 4.64 goals per game.
“A lot of our younger players haven’t been pressed that hard,” Gronow said. “It’s hard to move the ball around [against USC], but we should’ve been better.”
In Saturday’s victory against Long Beach, Santa Barbara went down two goals early before scoring six straight to go up 6-2 in the third. From there, the lead never fell below three goals.
UCSB relied on its balanced attack for the victory, with four players scoring two goals each.
“We were playing together,” Gronow said. “They tried to press who they thought were our dominant players, which left other guys open.”
On the defensive end, junior goalkeeper Myles Christian stated his dominance, tallying 13 saves. Christian ranks second in conference in saves per game.
UCSB resumes play next Sunday against No. 6 Pepperdine.