The season has officially come to an end for the No. 15 UCSB women’s water polo team. After falling to No. 10 Long Beach State 12-7 on Friday, the Gauchos ended their 2014 campaign with an 11-10 overtime win over No. 17 UC Davis in their final game.
Santa Barbara ends its year with a record of 12-15 overall and 2-4 in the conference and a fifth-place finish in the Big West Championships. Davis finished last in the conference at 12-18 overall and 0-5 in the Big West, while Long Beach ended with a fourth-place finish and a record of 19-11 overall and 2-3 in conference play.
“We’ve come a very long way since the beginning of the season,” sophomore utility Jessie Porter said. “We’ve had some ups and downs, but I think we’ve managed to have some great success this season; more than I think people expected us to have.”
Going into their last game against Davis, the Gauchos wanted nothing other than to finish the season with a win.
“We knew it was going to be a tough battle,” Porter said. “Throughout the game each team was pretty evenly matched. We each made mistakes but we were also able to make some great things happen.”
After a back and forth battle in which neither team was able to pull away, the two sides found themselves deadlocked heading into overtime.
“We played hard and smart the entire game,” Porter said. “After the buzzer sounded at the end of the fourth, we came into the wall and all agreed we weren’t going to end the season with a loss.”
The game remained extremely tight until the very end, but UCSB eventually got the win that it wanted, holding on for an 11-10 victory.
“We were able to pull away with a win because we came together as a team,” Porter said. “We refused to give up, and fortunately for us our offense and defense worked really well together in overtime.”
Two days earlier, the Gauchos came into their first game of the weekend against Long Beach looking to avenge a 9-5 loss earlier this month.
“Going into the game we were very excited to play them again,” Porter said. “[They] came into the game knowing we were going to give them a fight.”
Things looked good early on with sophomore utility Samantha Murphy taking advantage of a 6-on-5 to give UCSB a 1-0 lead. However, quick goals from senior defender Coriann Snyder and senior attacker Chelsea Parks gave the 49ers a 2-1 lead.
Sophomore attacker Miranda Schrader gave the Gauchos their second goal of the day on another 6-on-5 situation to tie it at two goals apiece, but Long Beach quickly took the lead again and did not relinquish it for the remainder of the game.
A second straight four-goal quarter sent the 49ers to halftime with an 8-4 advantage with Parks and junior attacker Justine Morgan leading the way. Parks eventually finished the day with four goals and Morgan contributed a hat trick of her own.
As UCSB headed into the second half needing something to change, it looked to its defense to spark some momentum. However, the part of the Gauchos’ game that had been its biggest strength down the final stretch of the season became a problem when they needed it most.
“Our biggest weakness was our defense,” Porter said. “We tried to switch it up in the second half to something we barely practice. When that didn’t seem to work I think the team began to get really frustrated which affected our offense.”
Long Beach opened the second half with three goals to push the lead to 11-4, putting the game out of reach. The 49ers eventually cruised to a 12-7 win.
Senior utility Jade Wentz Fitzgerald led the Gauchos with two goals and sophomore goalkeeper Mackenzie Brokaw led the defense with three saves.
With the season now officially over, UCSB has ten days off before it starts preparations for next season.
“We’re going to have to work even harder than we did during this season to get better as a team,” Porter said. “We do have a lot of work to do and it’s going to take a lot of hard work and dedication, but I know we’re very capable of coming back even stronger next year.”
A version of this article appeared on page 5 of April 28, 2014’s print edition of The Daily Nexus.
Photo by Kenneth Song of The Daily Nexus.