The No. 3 UCSB men’s water polo team will play its fourth Mountain Pacific Sports Federation game of the season against its fellow Southern California rival in No. 8 Pepperdine this Saturday at Campus Pool. The Gauchos enter the weekend with a 1-2 record in MPSF play and are coming off a big 13-7 win on the road against UC Irvine.
In their only other meeting this season, UCSB beat Pepperdine 8-4 on Sept. 16 in the NorCal tournament. In that game, the Gauchos entered half time with a 5-2 advantage and managed to hold the lead throughout the entire game. Junior attacker Matt Gronow and sophomore utility Bryce Miller each had two goals to lead the Gauchos in scoring, while senior goalkeeper Myles Christian led the defense with 11 saves.
“I think we are feeling good and confident about playing Pepperdine. They are a very active team with a couple strong outside shooters,” Christian said. “They do have a new coach who is a former national team player, so I think their style of play will be a little more standard and nothing too fancy.” Christian is coming off a career game against No. 6 UC Irvine in which he had 18 saves and held the Anteater’s high powered offense to 7 goals. With that effort, Christian further solidified his place as the third-ranked goalkeeper in the MPSF with 11.79 saves per game. Pepperdine currently ranks last in the MPSF with only 10.13 goals per game, so Christian and the rest of the Gaucho defense will have another opportunity for a big game.
Other Gauchos to watch out for in the stat column are junior attacker Evan Dellinger and the previously mentioned Gronow, who rank 14 and 17 respectively in conference in goals per game.
“This game is pretty much a must win for us if we still want to have a shot at going to the NCAA tournament,” sophomore attacker Bryan Snyder said. “Only two teams from our conference go and USC will probably be one of them.”
“By no means will it be an easy win, but if we play like we did against Irvine I am confident we will come away with a win,” Christian said.
The Pepperdine game is set for noon at Campus Pool on Saturday.