The No. 10 ranked UCSB men’s water polo team will look to end a three-game losing streak Friday night when it travels to take on No. 8 Long Beach State in its second Golden Coast Conference match of the season.
The conference foes are familiar with each other, having met just a month and a half ago. On Sept. 3, the Gauchos and 49ers squared off at the Triton Invitational in La Jolla.
Santa Barbara will be looking to avenge its tournament performance, as Long Beach won the game 9-6.
UCSB heads into Friday’s contest with an overall record of 9-8 and conference record of 0-1, having lost their only conference game thus far against then No. 16 San Jose State.
Long Beach is similarly winless in conference play, having lost to both Pepperdine and Pacific. The 49ers are .500 overall, holding a 9-9 record.
While the 49ers are hosting UCSD on Wednesday and could get a win, they are currently on a worse losing streak than the Gauchos, as they have lost their last five games.
A concern for Friday’s game will be whether sophomore utility Ivan Gvozdanovic and junior driver Boris Jovanovic will be back in the action.
Gvozdanovic and Jovanovic are the leading scorers for the Gauchos, and, combined with senior attacker Shane Hauschild, produce nearly a third of UCSB goals.
Obviously, there’s a lot riding on the return of both Gvozdanovic and Jovanovic.
While the Gauchos have struggled offensively the past few games due to the lack of Gvozdanovic and Jovanovic, sophomore goalkeeper Justyn Barrios has been a point of consistency.
Although he’s been scored on, Barrios doesn’t get discouraged, recording 12 saves versus USC and nine more against Long Beach State.
If the Gauchos’ scoring duo isn’t there to help the Gauchos Friday, Barrios will again have to step into the very important role of damage control.
The 49ers have done fairly well at evenly spreading their scoring this season, with their top five scorers all shooting above .400.
The goal-leader for Long Beach is Austin Stewart, who has scored 31 goals off of 69 shots. In comparison, only two of UCSB’s top five scorers this season are shooting over .400 (as of stats last updated Oct. 9).
The 49ers player with the second most goals on the year is sophomore attacker Nemanja Bakic.
Bakic scored two goals against No. 2 UCLA and has totaled 26 goals off 55 shots.
Clearly, the Gauchos will have their hands full on defense, especially if they don’t get a much-needed offensive boost from Gvozdanovic and Jovanovic.
Either way, one team will come out of the game with their losing streak broken, while the loser will be left quite far behind, as both the Gauchos and 49ers are already in second-to-last and last place respectively in the Golden Coast Conference.
This will be the final opportunity of this road trip for Santa Barbara to get a win. The Gauchos return home to Campus Pool next Friday, Oct. 27, against UC Irvine.
UCSB will face off against Long Beach State Friday, Oct. 20, at 7 p.m.
A version of this story appeared on p. 9 of the Oct. 19, 2017, edition of the Daily Nexus.