The No. 16 UCSB women’s water polo team, currently 12-8 overall, will begin conference play this week with a rematch against No. 15 Long Beach State at Long Beach on Saturday.
Santa Barbara is currently riding a two-game winning streak and will look to keep the success going against a Long Beach State team that is 6-9 on the year.
Long Beach State struggled mightily to start its season as it had lost nine of its first 10 games by an average margin of six goals.
In their previous matchup at the Triton Invitational Tournament in San Diego, the Gauchos won by a score of 10-5 behind four goals from sophomore utility Sarah Snyder.
Despite their early struggles, the 49ers have found recent success as of late as they went 3-1 at the Wolverine Invitational in Ann Arbor, Mich. Sophomore utility Maria Mimidi led the team with a total of six goals in the four games they played in.
In its last six games, Long Beach State has averaged nine goals per game which means that UCSB must continue to be stout defensively in order to come out with a win.
UCSB has seemed to have found their rhythm offensively after scoring a total of 27 goals in their past two games.
“I think we are starting to gel a little bit better,” Head Coach Serela Kay said. “It is an area that we need to keep improving on, which just comes with time.”
After struggling at the Barbara Kalbus Invitational in Irvine, the ’Chos were able to regain their confidence with two wins this past weekend.
“Part of the process is adversity and rebounding after losses,” Kay said. “If you continue to get hit, it definitely breaks you down, so it was nice to come out with two wins.”
Junior utility Kate Pipkin in particular has been on a hot streak, as she netted five goals and assisted on four this past weekend at the Claremont Convergence Tournament.
For the season, Pipkin has 32 goals and a team-leading 27 assists and 59 total points accumulated.
“She can do a little bit of everything,” Kay said. “It just depends on who we are playing. She is a very powerful threat. When she is on, watch out.”
Santa Barbara will also hope to rely on sophomore attacker Natalie Selin, whose five goals and four steal performance at the Barbara Kalbus Invitational led to her being picked as the Big West Player of the Week on Feb. 28.
After netting four more goals this past weekend, Selin, the California native, has tallied 24 goals on the season.
Moreover, freshman goalkeeper Becca Buck and sophomore goalkeeper Kenzi Snyder have started to dominate as Buck recorded 12 saves against the University of Redlands and Snyder recorded 10 saves against Pomona-Pitzer.
“They have done a great job,” Kay said. “The goalies have been splitting time so Becca played the first game that day and Kenzie Snyder played the second game against Pomona. I am really proud of both of them and excited about the future.”
Santa Barbara will look to add on to their win streak this weekend at Long Beach on March 10 as they face a red-hot 49er squad at 12 p.m.
A version of this story appeared on p. 6 of the March 8, 2018, edition of the Daily Nexus.