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In their final tournament before beginning Mountain Pacific Sports Federation play next week, the No. 6 UCSB men’s water polo team split their matches, defeating No. 11 Concordia and No. 8 Long Beach State while losing to No. 3 Pacific and No. 5 UC Berkeley at the SoCal Tournament.
Taking sixth place in the tournament, the Gauchos will head into MPSF play next week with an overall record of 13-4.
With every MPSF team participating in the tournament this past weekend, Santa Barbara got a taste of its competition to come in the following weeks, playing three MPSF opponents.
While ranked just one place higher in the national rankings, Cal (11-4) proved its superiority in the final game of the tournament, overcoming the Gauchos 11-3.
Santa Barbara was only able to manage one goal in each of the first three quarters and none in the final period, as Cal put plenty of pressure on Santa Barbara’s defense. After initially falling behind 1-0, the Golden Bears found their stride, going on a 5-0 run to put UCSB away early in the game.
Seven different players found a way on to the scoring stat sheet for Cal, with junior attacker Aleksa Saponjic leading the way with three goals.
UCSB’s first game of the day on Sunday saw the Gauchos battle to an 8-6 overtime victory over Long Beach State.
Senior attacker Matt Gronow led Santa Barbara offensively with three goals for the second consecutive game. Nevertheless, in such a low-scoring game, sophomore goalkeeper Chris Whitelegge was the key for UCSB, tallying 18 saves on the game.
The Gauchos got off to a quick start, taking an early 3-0 lead, but with their defense looking strong, the 49ers cut the deficit to one before halftime and took a 4-3 advantage into the final period. UCSB did not score a single goal in the second or third quarters.
With only two minutes remaining, Santa Barbara gained two quick scores, but the 49ers’ leading scorer on the day, sophomore attacker Nolan McConnell, found the back of the net for his second of three goals, sending the game to overtime.
UCSB scored the only goal of the first overtime, and another goal by Gronow during the second overtime sealed the victory, giving the Gauchos the 8-6 win.
Santa Barbara’s first loss of the tournament came to the higher-ranked Pacific on Saturday, with the Gauchos falling 10-8.
Despite reaching a 4-3 lead with 2:10 left to go in the second quarter, UCSB gave up two goals before halftime to enter the second half with a deficit. Opening the third quarter, the Gauchos tied the game, but back-to-back goals from Pacific gave the Tigers a lead they would keep the rest of the way.
For Pacific, senior attacker Kevin Oliviera scored a team-high three goals, while UCSB’s Gronow tallied three goals as well. However, senior goalkeeper Alex Malkis came up with 13 saves for the Tigers, compared to 11 for the Gauchos.
Santa Barbara started off the tournament strong, defeating Concordia for the second time this season thanks to a quick start.
The Gauchos outscored the Eagles 4-1 in the first quarter and 3-1 in the second to take a 7-2 lead into halftime. Concordia was never able to recover, giving Santa Barbara the 11-6 victory.
UCSB will begin conference play next weekend, facing Pepperdine on the road before returning home for a rematch against Cal.
A version of this article appeared on page 6 of October 14, 2013’s print edition of The Daily Nexus.
Photo by Kevin Yang of The Daily Nexus.