Over the weekend the No. 15 UCSB women’s water polo team took fourth place in the 2012 Big West Tournament, held in Davis. The Gauchos ended the regular season with a 19-13 record overall and a 3-2 record in the Big West, earning them the third seed behind UC Davis and UC Irvine. On Friday, the team opened the tournament against Pacific with a 9-5 win over the Tigers. On Saturday, UCSB lost a heartbreaker in double overtime to the No. 2 seed Davis 7-5 and then dropped another close game 6-5 to Cal State Northridge on Sunday in the third place game.
“We had a long season with some very well played games, and then we had some games that just did not go the way we planned, but as a team we stuck together,” junior Shelby Haroldson said. “Our seniors are going to be missed very much.”
Santa Barbara came out strong on Friday when it took the pool for the first time in the tournament. Junior Kacey Creek started the scoring three minutes into the first period and UCSB went on to outscore Pacific 3-0 in the first quarter. The Gauchos didn’t let up the attack when play resumed for the second quarter. Freshman Lauren Martin recorded the first goal of the period, and though Pacific answered with its first goal halfway through the period, the Gauchos found themselves up 6-2 when the whistle blew to end the first half.
Less than two minutes into the third period, the Tigers scored consecutive goals to cut the deficit to two. The Gaucho offense responded as when Martin scored her third goal of the day. Pacific scored to cut into the Gauchos’ lead again, but Creek responded by scoring her second goal to give UCSB an 8-5 lead. In the final period, senior Katie Zakula added one more goal to seal the win as the Gauchos took the match 9-5.
“I think we were all really pumped and excited to play on Friday and having already recently beaten Pacific helped us come out strong and win the game,” Haroldson said. On Saturday, UCSB found itself facing UC Davis for the fourth time this season. After one half of hard defensive play, the Gauchos trailed 2-1 after being held scoreless in the first period. In the third, the Aggies outscored the Gauchos 3-0 and looked to have the win secured. However, in the final period of regulation, the Gaucho defense clamped down and the offense fired up. Creek scored the first of UCSB’s four goals in the fourth quarter just over a minute into the period, and junior Bryce Winton completed the comeback by scoring with 45 seconds left to force overtime. After the first overtime period, the score was still tied at five apiece, but in the second overtime Davis managed to break the tie and take a 7-5 win.
On Sunday, the Gauchos faced Cal State Northridge in the third-place game. The first period ended in a 1-1 tie. The two teams headed into halftime with Northridge nursing a 4-3 lead which it promptly lost as the Gauchos outscored the Matadors 2-1 in the third period. The fourth period featured another close battle, before Northridge broke through with just under four minutes to play. Junior Shelby Haroldson put up a shot to tie the game with three seconds left, but it was knocked away as the Gauchos fell 6-5 to the Matadors to take fourth place.
UCSB finished 20-15 on the season. They will lose just two players to graduation, Zakula and Elle Quane, which will put them in a good position to make a run at the Big West title again next season.