This weekend, the No. 18 UCSB women’s water polo team goes on the road to take on No. 11 LMU in the UCSD Triton Invite. A loss will send the Gauchos back home, but with a win they will face a second opponent later in the day.
Coming off its first action of the season two weeks ago when it hosted the UCSB Winter Invite, Santa Barbara is looking to get on track after a rough 2-5 start.
However, despite the disappointing record, the team knows that its play thus far is not representative of how good it can be. With a roster stacked with young freshmen and sophomores, and each of their five losses coming against other top ranked teams, the Gauchos are not too worried about where they are right now.
“I think we’re doing really well; we’re all gelling together and we’re working really well as a team,” junior utility Lauren Martin said. “The games two weeks ago were really rough, but even though we didn’t win those games we still did pretty well as a team for that being our first time playing together. We have room for improvement and it’s just the beginning.”
Already at 0-5 against top-20 teams, UCSB will look to end this streak with a win over LMU. The Lions are off to an impressive 3-1 start, already having picked up a 12-7 win over No. 8 San Jose State in the UCLA Invite two weeks ago. Their only loss came against the No. 3 ranked Bruins with a final score of 15-6.
LMU possesses one of the most powerful offensive machines in the country, already averaging an impressive mark of nearly 16 goals per game in wins. Senior attacker Alexandra Honny is averaging a team high 2.75 goals per game, while four of her teammates are averaging 1.75 or more per game.
“We’re not really doing anything specific just because we’re playing LMU; we’re just going to play our game and see what we can do,” Martin said. “We’re working on our 6-on-5 as well as our 5-on-6 defense, and making sure that everything is flowing together.”
Early in the season, the young Gaucho squad has been led by Martin, who has 11 goals through seven games. Just behind her on the stat sheet are freshman attacker Carly Christian with seven goals and last year’s Big West Freshman of the Year in sophomore utility Samantha Murphy with five.
“Because everyone is so young we’re just all so close and I actually think it’s a good thing because there’s so much room for improvement,” Martin said. “I think the juniors and seniors are really good leaders and can show the way for these [younger players].”
In seven games this season, UCSB has managed to score an average of seven goals per game, a number the Gauchos will likely need to surpass in order to come away with a win this weekend. In order for them to do so, one of the keys will be how well they can communicate out in the water.
“We just need to make sure we’re talking as a team and I think that’s something we lacked two weeks ago,” Martin said. “We’ve been working a lot in practice on our communication.”
UCSB takes on LMU at 12:30 p.m. this Saturday at Canyonview Aquatic Center.
A version of this article appeared on page 7 of Feb. 6th’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.
Photo by Peter Vandenbelt of the Daily Nexus.