The No. 5 UCSB men’s water polo team came from behind against Pepperdine in Malibu on Sunday, sneaking away with a 16-15 overtime victory against the No. 6 Waves.
With the win, the Gauchos improve to 14-7 overall and 2-2 in the MPSF. Meanwhile, the Waves drop to 12-9 overall and 2-4 in conference.
“The win was very crucial, especially being at Pepperdine,” junior attacker Jesse Gillespie said. “Every game we win gets us a step closer to the MPSF tournament.”
It was a slow start on both ends of the pool as the first goal didn’t come until four minutes remained in the first quarter. Sophomore two-meter defender Scott Bishop opened up scoring for both teams with the first quarter ending in a 3-3 tie.
“It’s big for us to get the first goal and we had a hell of a start, going up 3-0,” junior goalkeeper Myles Christian said.
Pepperdine continued to add pressure in the second and took a 7-4 lead into halftime.
“We just started to force things offensively and broke down defensively,” Christian said. “We were basically just handing them free goals.”
The third period saw UCSB score three straight goals to even the score to 7-7 going into the final quarter of regulation.
The match was deadlocked until five minutes remained, when the Gauchos gave up two goals, including one from sophomore attacker Mike Tragitt. Tragitt, along with senior attackers Andrew Milcovich and Brandon Picone, led the Waves in scoring with three goals each.
“We were definitely trying to honor a couple of their other players, but if you’re going to honor other players, one of their weaker players is bound to step up and score, and that’s what he did,” Christian said.
Out of a quickly called timeout, UCSB answered with goals by freshman and sophomore attackers Eric Van de Mortel and Matt Gronow with 21 seconds left to force overtime.
“We just set up a play and it was nice that we ran it perfectly,” Gillespie said. “Matt had a beautiful cross-cage shot.”
In the first overtime period, UCSB was outscored 2-1, but persevered in the second overtime. The equalizer came from Gronow, who tallied a hat trick. Freshman utility Nick Tomasello, followed by freshman two-meter defender Liam Gaughan, allowed UCSB to hold on to the much-needed win.
The Gauchos maintained their balanced offense with 10 players scoring. On the defensive end, Christian had eight saves.
The Gauchos return home next weekend for two crucial conference matchups against Pacific and UC Irvine.