It’s been an up and down year for the No. 15 UCSB women’s water polo team to say the least, but with just one weekend of play remaining, the team is as confident in itself as it has been all season.
The Gauchos will be opening up their playoff campaign against the tournament host, No. 10 LBSU, a team that defeated UCSB in Long Beach less than two weeks ago.
“Well this is what it all came down to,” Head Coach Wolf Wigo said. “Our tournament is a really competitive tournament. All the teams are really close and any team can win any game in my opinion. We’re going to have to play our best and hopefully we do.”
After a 1-5 start to the season, the Gauchos have battled hard all year to their current record of 11-14 overall and 2-3 in the Big West, despite playing a majority of their games against some of the nation’s top teams. They enter the Big West Championships as the No. 5 seed.
Long Beach, which enters as the No. 4 seed in the tournament, boasts a record of 18-10 overall and 2-2 in the Big West.
“Last time we played them we didn’t do so well, but we’re going to go forward from that and learn from our mistakes,” junior utility Lauren Martin said. “We plan to watch game film and really focus on their defense and plays that they run, so we don’t have a repeat of what happened [last time].”
UCSB will look to rely on a defense grounded in team communication which has improved tremendously since the beginning of the year.
Anchoring that defense will be two goalkeepers in sophomore Mackenzie Brokaw and freshman Nikki Quinn, both of whom have shared playing time over the last three games.
“We’ve played great defense in the second half of the season,” Wigo said. “[Long Beach is] a team we definitely can beat.”
While the defense should prove to be a reliable weapon once more, UCSB knows it still has to score goals in order to win.
“We need to make sure we’re on point with our shots because when we played them the other weekend we weren’t on key with our shooting,” Martin said. “We have to come out fired up and ready to play from the beginning. We’ll work on our 6-on-5 in practice and if we do that and execute what we’ve been working on, then I think we’ll be good to go.”
The last time the 49ers played UCSB, they took control of the game by looking to their two top goal-scoring seniors, attacker Chelsea Parks and defender Coriann Snyder, each of whom put in two and three goals in the 9-5 win, respectively.
Parks finished the regular season with the fourth highest goal-scoring tally in the Big West at 1.70 per game and 47 total. Snyder, despite being considered a defender, still managed to finish eighth in goals at 1.59 per game and 48 total.
If UCSB can pull off the win against Long Beach State, it will likely take on No. 6 UC Irvine on Saturday with a chance to play in the Big West first-place game. A loss to the 49ers will result in a Sunday game for fifth place.
The game is to begin at 1:30 p.m. this Friday in Long Beach.
A version of this article appeared on page 7 of April 24th’s print edition of The Daily Nexus.
Photo by Dustin Harris of the Daily Nexus.