The No. 17 UCSB women’s water polo team, who is 14-11 overall and 1-2 in conference play, will face No. 5 Hawaii in Santa Barbara this weekend on Saturday and No. 10 UC Davis on Sunday in hopes of improving its Big West record before the conference tournament in a couple of weeks.
Santa Barbara will look to pull off the upset at home against both an 18-4, 3-0 conference record Rainbow Wahine team and the Aggies squad, who is 17-8 overall, 2-1 in Big West play, as UCSB comes into this game riding off the high of a 9-5 win over CSUN.
UCSB defeated No. 20 CSUN this past Saturday to also earn its first Big West victory of the season. Sophomore utility Sarah Snyder led the way with four goals while freshman goalkeeper Becca Buck had six saves in front of the cage.
In their previous matchup, which dates back to last season, Hawaii won 8-3 behind a high-powered offense that averaged 10 goals per game.
Hawaii has won six of their last seven games by an average margin of seven goals.
They last played against No. 14 Long Beach State in their last home game of the season and won by a score of 12-6. Sophomore utility Maartje Keuning led the way as she netted four goals, giving her 36 on the year.
Junior Irene Gonzales netted a hat trick on the game as well, adding to her team-leading record of 49 goals, which also leads the Big West.
It will be crucial for the ‘Chos to limit the amount of chances Hawaii has on goal by continuing to stay consistent with their defensive energy throughout the entire game.
“Hawaii has very good shooters,” Head Coach Serela Kay said. “I think they have a lot of fire power so we are going to need to be able to really lock down on defense and get some good shot blocks.”
As winners of seven of their last 10 games, UC Davis will look to continue their hot streak by relying primarily on their potent offense as they average 11 goals per game on the year.
The Aggies were last in action this past weekend when they won a thriller against No. 9 UC Irvine. Senior center Greta Kohlmoos had a hat trick on the day while sophomore goalkeeper Caitlin Golding had seven saves.
In order for UCSB to have success against UC Davis, it will be crucial for the ‘Chos to slow down junior utility Annie Kutt, who leads the team with 73 points on the year, consisting of 32 goals and 41 assists.
Despite struggling on offense in the prior two games before CSUN, Santa Barbara seems to have found their rhythm offensively, primarily due to the play of Snyder.
Snyder comes into this game as the third-leading goal scorer in the conference. With 45 goals on the year, she has already passed last year’s personal scoring record by 10 goals and still has two regular season games as well as the Big West Tournament to add to it.
“She has been inspiring,” Kay stated. “I think it is important for her to realize that she does lead our team and there is a target on her back, which makes it a little more challenging for herself but that will lead to other people being open.”
Moreover, freshman attacker Mollie Simmons continues her diverse level of play in terms of goals, sprints and steals. The San Jose native currently has 17 goals and 33 steals on the year and has consistently won sprints to start off the period and give the Gauchos early momentum.
“She is only a freshman and I think there is such room for growth from her,” Kay said. “I am excited for what is going to come in the future.”
Both Buck and sophomore goalkeeper Kenzi Snyder continue to split time in front of the cage and will look to continue their dominance as of late. With 10 saves and two steals combined in their last game, they have made it extremely difficult for opponents to find the back of the net.
“I think their presence was good,” Kay said. “They have been communicating very well and that is something we have been focusing on.”
With just two games remaining before the Big West Tournament, UCSB will look to increase their seed in the Big West Standings as they are currently in fifth place. If they win both games, they will put themselves in a great position to secure at least a top-three seed in the tournament.
Santa Barbara will look to add on to their one-game win streak as they host both Hawaii and Davis this weekend in Santa Barbara at 12 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, respectively, at Campus Pool.
A version of this story appeared on p. 7 of the April 12th, 2018, edition of the Daily Nexus.