The No. 14 UCSB women’s water polo team faced the No. 6 UC Irvine Anteaters for their first Big West match this past Sunday. Despite a two-point lead at the end of the first half, the Gauchos were unable to stay on top and dropped their conference opener 8-5.
After Sunday’s loss Santa Barbara is now 12-11 overall and start 0-1 in conference. As for the Anteaters, their winning streak increases to four games and they are now 2-1 in conference and 15-9 overall.
The Gauchos wasted no time scoring as they scored a goal 25 seconds into the match. It was senior center Lauren Martin who opened up the scoreboard after winning the first possession of the ball.
However UC Irvine reacted quickly and answered with two goals in a matter of four minutes. The first by Mary Brooks who took advantage of an exclusion with an assist by Gabby Pierandozzi. The second came from a pass from Brooks to Pierandozzi.
With 29 seconds left in the first quarter, junior utility Miranda Schrader knocked one in after capitalizing on a power play to cut the ‘Eaters momentary lead short.
In the second period of the game, UCSB shut down Irvine’s offense. Senior goalkeeper Mackenzie Brokaw had five saves preventing the Anteaters from scoring. Once again Martin struck at the 4:59 mark on a 6-5 advantage.
A minute leader senior attacker Bryn Hudson followed her lead and put one in the back of the net for the first time in the game. The Gauchos now had a two-point lead going into the second half of the game with the score at 4-2.
UCI came out ready to fight back in the second half and scored three straight goals. After a block from Pierandozzi, Brooks put the first goal of the trio away.
Pierandozzi then converted on the penalty with an assist by Emily Carlson. Natalie Seidemann then took a pass from Brooks to give the Anteaters a 5-4 lead.
With seconds of the third quarter left, Hudson once again found the net on an exclusion and tied the game up before going into the last quarter. Four of UCSB’s five goals came from power plays.
Irvine carried its momentum to the fourth quarter of the match, where they shutdown the Gauchos 3-0. Five saves from UCI’s goalkeeper Annika Nelson and defensive steals by Brooks made it impossible for UCSB to score.
Martin and Hudson both ended the game with a pair of goals, while Schrader contributed one as well. Senior utility Samantha Murphy directed the offense and collected two assists.
Brokaw maintained busy in the cage and tallied a total of 16 saves in the game, a season high while also collecting a steal.
Although it was the first conference match, there is less than a month left before the Big West Tournament. This means that the Gauchos will have to remain focused and use what they learned from the loss to win the next couple of games. They cannot let up once they take a lead.
UCSB will return to the Campus Pool next weekend to host UC Davis on Saturday at 12 P.M. and Hawai’i on Sunday once again at noon.