When Myles Christian entered UCSB as a talented freshman, many expected greatness from him. Five years later, those expectations have come to fruition, as the senior goalkeeper exits as one of the all-time great water polo players in Gaucho history.
Christian will be graduating this year after five years of consistent production and leadership. He leaves UCSB ranked fourth in career saves with 607, and his 238 saves in his senior season are fourth all-time for single season saves at UCSB. Also in his senior season, Christian finished third in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation with 11.61 saves per game and posted a career-best 19 saves on Oct. 21 at UC Irvine.
“That game was definitely the highlight of my career, it was fun,” Christian said. “I would also say beating Stanford and UCLA in the SoCal tournament as some of the highlights of my career. That was huge for us; it really showed us what we were capable of doing even though we didn’t quite meet those expectations the rest of the season.”
In his five-year career, the Gauchos went a combined 74-63 and never finished higher than eighth in the national rankings. As a senior and one of the most experienced players on the team, Christian was named a team captain along with fellow senior Brian Shoemaker.
“As far as his leadership, Myles leads by example and people really want to be around him,” Head Coach Wolf Wigo said. “He has such a great work ethic. I think it really rubs off on his teammates.”
However, Christian’s college career did not begin with stardom right away. In 2008, his first year at UCSB, Christian redshirted and then shared playing time during his freshman and sophomore seasons with upperclassman Fraser Bunn.
“It was a good experience; Fraser was a really good goalie and I learned a lot from him,” Christian said. “It was nice to not have all of the pressure on me right away.”
In 2009, his freshman year of eligibility, Christian made six starts and tallied 84 saves. In a 10-9 overtime loss to Loyola Marymount, Christian collected 15 saves which was at the time a career best.
“Myles is definitely a leader not only in the pool, but all around,” junior guard Dylan Baliani said. “He works hard at everything he does. It’s not so much of what he says, but [what] he does. He is the perfect example of a guy who leads by example.”
In his sophomore season, Christian appeared in 18 games for UCSB and accumulated 115 saves with 18 steals. Then in 2011, Christian got the full starting job and posted 170 saves with 25 steals to lead the team.
“It’s always a great feeling when you get the starting job. I felt like by , I had enough experience, and it wasn’t too much pressure so I could enjoy it everyday,” Christian said.
Before he was a Gaucho, Christian was a stand-out at Newport Harbor High School where he received countless awards and honors. As a senior, Christian led the Sailors to a CIF Division I championship and was named to First Team All-Sunset League, First Team All-County, First Team All- CIF Division I and First Team All-American. With all that success, Christian garnered a lot of attention from college coaches.
“The two main schools I was looking at were UCSB and Long Beach State,” Christian said. “There was some interest in going to somewhere like UCLA or USC, but they had a few goalies already and UCSB was lacking in that area. Then I came up on my recruiting trip and just immediately fell in love, how could you not? In the end it was an easy choice.”
The fact that UCSB was the “easy choice” for Myles has made a lot of teammates and Gaucho fans happy. Many of them were eager to offer their thoughts and respect for Myles, who impresses in everything he does.
“Myles was probably the best goalie in the country this past year, most of the goals that he allowed were the result of missed shot blocks and defensive mistakes,” sophomore attacker Derek Shoemaker said. “He was also a great captain and leader. He set up various team activities to keep us out of trouble and he was usually in charge of getting our team dinners as well. It’s almost as if he was another coach.”
In his life after UCSB, Christian will be leaving water polo behind but will still be making saves. However, these saves will not be of potential goals, but of human lives.
“I’m graduating in the spring and right now I’m working as an EMT with the Santa Barbara County Fire Department so I’ll have that job until I graduate,” Christian said. “Then I am looking to stay up here and go to the fire academy and hopefully become a firefighter here in Santa Barbara.”
In his final comments, Christian offered some lasting pieces of advice and leadership for the rest of the Gauchos.
“Work together, always support each other,” Christian said. “They have so much talent. They just need to work together, show up to practice everyday and work hard. They could be really successful next year if that happens.”
A version of this article appeared on page 6 of November 28, 2012’s print edition of the Nexus.