The No. 15 UCSB women’s water polo team closed out the home portion of their schedule on Saturday by winning two games, the first in a 5-3 triumph over No. 17 Cal State Northridge, the Gauchos’ third victory over the Matadors this season. Santa Barbara also defeated Cal Baptist 9-7 in the afternoon game. UCSB is now 18-12 overall and 2-1 in the Big West. They have won eight of their last 12 games.
“We are all really excited for our conference games to finally be underway, so that gets us pumped up when it comes to stepping up and playing as a team,” junior Shelby Haroldson said. “I think we are starting to hit a peak now.”
Saturday’s morning game against Northridge was not only the third time the Gauchos have faced the Matadors, but it was also the third game that counted toward their conference record. UCSB sealed the Matadors’ fate early in the game.
Haroldson opened the scoring less than two minutes into the game. Immediately after scoring, she stole the ball back from Northridge and fed it to senior Katie Zakula, who, playing in her second-to-last home game, found the net for UCSB’s second goal of the quarter. The Santa Barbara defense, led by junior goalkeeper Ruth Milne with 15 saves in the match, blanked the Matadors in the quarter. Those two goals would prove to be the difference in the game.
“I think when we go out in the first quarter and score the first goal of the game, [we’re able to] set the tone and intensity of the game,” Haroldson said.
The second quarter saw Northridge cut the Gaucho lead to a single goal, but after halftime UCSB came out and scored twice to Northridge’s once, reestablishing its two-goal lead. The teams each managed one more goal in the game’s final period, and the Gauchos took the 5-3 win.
“Getting this second win gives the team a confidence boost and pumps us up more when it comes to traveling up north this weekend to finish conference games,” Haroldson said. “This win also gives us the chance to be seated well in the Big West conference at the end of the month.”
The second match of the day proved to be more of a shootout, but once again the Gauchos sealed the victory early on. This time, facing Cal Baptist, UCSB came out firing to outscore the Lancers 5-2 in the first half and 3-1 in the first quarter alone.
The third quarter ended with UCSB leading by just one goal after Cal Baptist scored two unanswered in the period. However, the UCSB defense stepped up and junior Kacey Creek put in her second goal of the match to secure the win 9-7. The Gauchos will take to the road once again this weekend for their final two regular season games. Their first match will take place on Saturday at noon at UC Davis. The Gauchos have already faced the Aggies twice this season, with their first matchup resulting in a 12-8 defeat for UCSB and the second in a 10-9 win. UCSB is scheduled to face Pacific the following day at noon.