Although the No. 6 UCSB men’s water polo team won a close game against No. 8 LBSU to take seventh-place in the MPSF tournament, losses to No. 2 Cal and No. 7 UCI put a damper in what could’ve been a great ending to the Gauchos’ season.
Santa Barbara finishes the season with a 16-11 record after its two losses and one win at the invitational.
In their final match of the 2015 season, the Gauchos faced a familiar foe in LBSU. The two teams had already met four times prior to Sunday’s match with UCSB being the victors in all four games. After two disappointing performances to open the tournament, it was clear Santa Barbara was determined to establish their offensive attack early.
In the first frame, sophomore attacker Shane Hauschild scored with a medium range shot followed by a beautiful corner shot from freshman driver Boris Jovanovic, putting the Gauchos up 2-0.
It was a highly contested defensive match in the second quarter with both teams not scoring until Hauschild added his second goal with just over two minutes to give UCSB a 3-0 halftime lead.
The 49ers managed to respond in the second half, scoring the first two goals to open the third to cut Santa Barbara’s lead to one goal.
Jovanovic stopped the run, netting his second goal of the contest while Hauschild completed a hat trick just before the end of the third to make the score 5-3 in favor of the Gauchos.
The final frame started with a score from junior attacker Mitchell Hamilton and LBSU countering back the very next possession. Senior attacker Derek Shoemaker added a goal to make the score 7-4 with just over four minutes left.
Although the game seemed like it was going to be easily won by UCSB, the 49ers did not go away easily, adding two goals to trim the Gauchos’ lead to 7-6 with just over one minute left. In its final possession, LBSU missed the shot and the clock ran out giving the Gauchos the victory and the seventh-place finish.
Before ending on a high note, Santa Barbara lost to a team ranked lower than itself for the first time this season after a poor performance against UCI. It had beaten the Anteaters earlier in the season thanks to a game-winning shot. However, UCI was able to avoid the intense ending in Saturday’s match.
The Anteaters’ star senior driver Lovre Milos started the scoring by making a goal three seconds into the start of the match. UCSB responded by scoring two goals courtesy of Shoemaker but gave up two scores to the Anteaters as they took the 3-2 lead after the first.
Shoemaker and Hamilton added two goals for UCSB in the second quarter to give it a 4-3 halftime lead. However, in the second half the team fell apart, surrendering five-straight goals.
Within a span of thirty seconds into the third quarter, the Anteaters scored three goals to go up 6-4. They would add one more in the fourth to win the game 7-4.
The Gauchos’ four goals tied a season-low. It would be in back-to-back matches they tied their season-low, having happened first in their quarterfinal matchup against Cal.
The Bears scored two goals in the first quarter to take an early lead. UCSB’s lone goal in the first half came late in the second period thanks to Shoemaker. After his score, the Gauchos surrendered three-straight goals, going down 6-1 at halftime.
Cal added two more goals to start the third and took a commanding 8-1 lead. With the quarter nearing the end, Shoemaker added one more goal to make the score 8-2 after three quarters.
Shoemaker completed a hat trick in the fourth period, scoring his third score of the game. Hauschild also added a goal but the outcome was inevitable. The Gauchos lost 11-4, diminishing their hopes of winning their first MPSF championship in school history.
Still, the two seniors that led Santa Barbara throughout the season put on good performances to end their careers as Gauchos.
Senior goalkeeper Chris Whitelegge tallied 40 saves on the weekend, ending his career with 895 saves, the second most in MPSF history. Shoemaker had six goals in the three games and finished the season as the Gauchos leading scorer with 48.
Although the final weekend did not go the way UCSB intended it to go, it still had a solid season overall. The 16-11 finish was an improvement from the year before and overall, the team looked competitive in almost every match.
The losses of the four seniors will have an impact, but the Gauchos still have plenty of young talent such as Hauschild, Jovanovic and Hamilton returning. The exposure that these young players gained from playing this season along with the growth of the rest of the team makes UCSB a considerable contender to emerge for a top finish in next year’s MPSF standings.