The No. 7 UCSB men’s water polo team heads north for a weekend double header, beginning at No. 5 University of Pacific Saturday and followed by a game at No. 4 University of California Berkeley Sunday.
The Gauchos are currently 15-7 overall and 1-4 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Having lost four out of their last five games in the MPSF, this road trip is an opportunity for UCSB to make up some ground on both the Golden Bears (12-7, 3-3 MPSF) and the Tigers (11-7, 2-2 MPSF). UCSB is tied for seventh in the MPSF while Cal and Pacific are tied for fourth in conference. However, wins will not come easy as Pacific and Cal have both won four of their last six games.
“This is a huge weekend for us; both of these teams have been playing really well lately and they are by no means going to be easy,” senior captain and goalkeeper Myles Christian said. “As long as we show up and play good defense by closing out on Pacific’s talented shooters and stopping Cal’s counter attack, then we should be fine.”
The Gauchos have not played Pacific yet this season, but they must keep an eye on junior attacker Balazs Erdelyi. Erdelyi is from Hungary and is the MPSF’s leading goal scorer this season with 3.82 per game. Erdelyi also has 15 multiple goal games, with his best game coming against the University of Santa Clara, where he tallied nine goals.
“I have played against [Erdelyi] multiple times in the previous years,” Christian said. “He is a very talented shooter, so we will look to press him more on defense. We want to really work on him in our counter attack and front court offense to try and get him into foul trouble.”
After their game against the Tigers, the Gauchos must stay on the road to face the Golden Bears on Sunday.
“We’re focused on taking it one game at a time, and we know both games are important,” senior captain and utility Brian Shoemaker said. “No matter what happens in the first game, we have to be mentally ready to win the next game. This is a huge weekend for us, so coming out with two wins is our goal.”
Despite losing five players in September for code of conduct violations, the Golden Bears also possess a high caliber offensive threat in junior attacker Collin Smith, who ranks fourth in the MPSF with 2.79 goals per game. Smith leads his team in goals with 53, which is twenty goals more than their next leading scorer.
“This weekend is huge for us,” sophomore attacker Derek Shoemaker said. “If we can come home with two wins, we’ll be in a great position for the MPSF tournament. Both games will be competitive, but we’ve had a tough week of training and we are ready to get back on track.”
Both games are scheduled for noon.