This past Saturday was the No. 15 UCSB women’s water polo team’s first game in three weeks and its first home conference matchup of the season. The Gauchos are now 12-13 overall and 1-1 in conference after their 6-4 loss to No. 5 UC Irvine.
The victory increased the Anteaters (14-6, 2-0) winning streak to five games and was their first conference win of the season.
UCSB managed to score in all four periods but could not contain Irvine’s offensive attack. Santa Barbara earned an early 1–0 lead at the 3:20 mark of the first period when junior attacker Bryn Hudson scored UCSB’s first goal.
The Gauchos held the Anteaters scoreless in the first period. Despite allowing a total of six goals, junior goalkeeper Mackenzie Brokaw had a spectacular performance as she recorded a game-high 13 saves.
But the one-point deficit was not enough to put UC Irvine away. Irvine entered the second period with an increase in offensive aggressiveness and took more shots. The Anteaters outscored UCSB 3–1 to finish out the first half as junior utility Cambria Shockley scored the goal that gave UCI a 3–2 lead at halftime.
Irvine continued its scoring run in the second half. At the forefront of Irvine’s successful scoring was redshirt senior utility Danielle Warde. Warde served as the catalyst to the team’s great scoring plays as she went off for a total of four goals.
Her ability to single-handedly control the flow of the game enabled her to guide her team to victory. The game was starting to slip away from the Gauchos after Warde scored a goal early in the third period to give UCI a 4–2 lead.
However, a goal by redshirt sophomore attacker Miranda Schrader with 1:24 left in the third period revived the Gauchos’ hopes of a possible comeback. Yet, even with little time left in the period, junior utility Kelsey Thornton answered right back with a goal of her own to increase the Anteaters’ lead to 5–3.
A goal by Warde with 6:11 left in the fourth period put the finishing touches on UCI’s lead, allowing it to secure its victory. Freshman Camila Schafer netted a goal in the fourth period, but her effort was not enough to trim UCSB’s two-point deficit as time expired.
With just a little less than a month left before the Big West Tournament, it is key that UCSB re-establish its chemistry. Winning conference games will be the most challenging part of the Gauchos’ schedule as every Big West team remains ranked in the Top 20.
UCSB’s next game is this Saturday, April 4 at No. 6 Hawaii at 3:00 p.m. It will be the first time Head Coach Serela Kay will face her former team since being Hawaii’s Associate Head Coach for the previous two years.