The 2012 regular season will come to a close this weekend, as the No. 15 UCSB women’s water polo team travels to Davis on Saturday and Pacific on Sunday for their final two games before the Big West Tournament. These are also UCSB’s final two conference games, and so will play a large role in determining their seeding in the tournament.
“Getting at least one win this weekend puts us in a really good position for the Big West Tournament,” junior attacker Shelby Haroldson said. “By winning both games this weekend we will be seeded second in the tournament and have a bye on Friday.”
When the Gauchos take to the pool at noon on Saturday, it will be the third time this season that they find UC Davis waiting for them at the other end. In their first matchup of the season, UCSB’s third game overall, the Aggies outfought the Gauchos to hand them a 12-8 defeat. Junior goalkeeper Ruth Milne recorded eight saves and freshman attacker Bernadette Bevins found the Aggie net three times but UCSB could not stand up to the Davis assault.
Their second meeting, during the UC Irvine Invitational, ended very differently. A 3-1 second quarter and 12 saves by Milne kept the Gauchos in front long enough to sneak away with a 10-9 win. This time it was Haroldson and sophomore utility Molly Hafferkamp who lead the team in scoring with three goals each.
“We definitely know most of [Davis’] plays and which players we need to be careful of, but the last time we played them was in February and things could be different since then, so we are just going into the game like we go into any game, giving it our all and coming out with a lot of intensity,” Haroldson said.
Yet neither of the previous games mattered like the third one does. The first two didn’t count toward either team’s conference record. Both teams will be looking to bring their best. Fortunately for the Gauchos, they have shown steady improvement over the course of the season and are playing some of their best water polo right now, as they have won eight of their last 10 games.
“We are a completely different team since the very first time we saw Davis,” Haroldson said.
The next day the Gauchos will once again find themselves in the pool at noon, this time to face Pacific. The Tigers opened their season by winning eight of their first 10, but have tailed off in recent weeks. They have won only three games since then, and are currently riding an eight-game losing streak. They have lost 11 of their last 12 games and stand at 9-15 on the season and 0-3 in conference.
However, a conference win over the Gauchos would mean a lot to Pacific, and they will likely throw everything they have against UCSB.
“We definitely aren’t going into that game thinking it’s going to be an easy win because with any team and every game you play you never know what the outcome is going to be,” Haroldson said.
Both of the weekend’s matches are slated for noon start times, against Davis on Saturday and Pacific on Sunday. After this weekend, UCSB will have almost two weeks to get ready before they return to Davis, where the Big West Tournament is being hosted this year.