The No. 16 ranked UCSB women’s water polo team finished the season with an overall record of 16-13 overall, 2-3 in conference play and fourth place in the Big West Standings.
Despite an up-and-down season, Santa Barbara was able to grow and gain confidence throughout the year against top-ranked opponents such as UC Davis and Hawaii.
Although UCSB had the youngest roster in the Big West this year, the ‘Chos were able to find success throughout the season with the help of freshman attacker Mollie Simmons, sophomore utility Sarah Snyder and junior utility Kate Pipkin.
Snyder finished the season with 49 goals on the year, which was just five goals shy of CSUN’s senior Madeleine Sanchez who had 54 goals. This marks the most goals Snyder has had in a season as she broke her previous record of 35 goals from her freshman campaign.
“She has come a long way,” Head Coach Serela Kay said. “Last year she had big shoes to fill as a starting center as a freshman. This year she has become more of a leader in and out of the pool, which has really benefited the team”
Simmons was all over the pool this year as she ranked in the top five of the conference in steals. With a team-leading 42 steals on the year, she was able to have an impact defensively despite having the primary responsibility of initiating the offense in the front court.
“She won 89/100 sprints which is incredible,” Kay explained. “She made an impact right away and led the team in steals as well. She did a great job as a freshman and I look forward to seeing what she does in the future.”
Pipkin had her most efficient season in her Gaucho career as she found the back of the net 44 times, assisted on 35 Santa Barbara goals and ranked among the top three in overall points on the year.
In order for UCSB to improve next season, it will be crucial for Pipkin, Snyder and Simmons to continue to elevate their game and learn from their past experiences from this season.
Sophomore goalkeeper Kenzi Snyder also had a tremendous year as she had 171 saves on the season with a save percentage of 59.
As the anchor of the Gauchos’ defense, Snyder often frustrated opponents by preventing potential goals from finding the back of the net with the help of her quick reflexes.
One highlight of the year was in a game vs UC Davis when Snyder threw the ball over Davis’ keeper and into the Aggies’ goal from her own goal.
“Goalkeepers are the most important position in polo in my opinion,” Kay stated. “She did a good job and the future is definitely bright. With two years under her belt, I expect her to really rise to the occasion.”
With everyone returning except senior defender Annie Mortimer, Santa Barbara will look to build on the chemistry they have already developed this year and perfect their craft for next season.
“I expect us to pick up right where we left off,” Kay explained. “I think it is important that we reflect during this offseason on the things we did well and improve on them. At this point, I don’t think we need to change anything dramatically but instead just need to get better at what we are doing.”
UCSB will look to develop over this offseason as they aim to climb to the top of the Big West next season with a more experienced group that will use this past season as motivation to elevate their level of play.