The No. 11 ranked UCSB women’s water polo team, who are currently 19-7 overall, suffered a tough loss Saturday on the road to No. 5 Hawai’i, who are now 15-9 overall.
Coming off a dominating 19-8 performance against Cal State Northridge last week, the ‘Chos looked to carry their momentum and pull off the upset in their last regular season matchup away from home.
Unfortunately for UCSB, their red-hot offense was unable to break through against the Rainbow Wahine defense, as they were able to stifle the Gauchos for four straight quarters.
Santa Barbara got off to a slow start, as the squad was unable to score until junior utility Sarah Snyder connected with senior attacker Sarah Kreiser for a goal with 5:31 left in the quarter. Despite the strong chemistry this team has shown thus far, they were outscored by three goals in the first period.
Hawai’i took a commanding 8-1 lead during the second period, fueled by Hawai’i’s goalkeeper Molly DiLalla who posted an impressive 85.7% save percentage. DiLalla has had a huge impact for the Rainbow Wahine, making it extremely difficult for opposing teams to find the back of the net.
Coming out of the half, the Gauchos started to gain their rhythm as they outscored Hawai’i 4-3 in the third period. Senior utility Kate Pipkin rallied the team behind a huge conversion on a penalty, jumpstarting the stagnant Gaucho offense. As one of the few seniors on the team, Pipkin has been instrumental with regards to her consistent leadership. This has allowed the Gauchos to stay resilient despite being behind by a couple of scores.
Even though UCSB came into the fourth period down 11-5, Santa Barbara put up a good fight, starting with Snyder as she notched her third hat trick in a row with two well-timed goals in the final period of play. The Gauchos could have cut into the lead further, but freshman attacker Amanda Legaspi was unable to convert on a late penalty. Although she was unable to convert, she will surely learn from these experiences, as the Big West Tournament comes closer. Despite this resurgence, the big lead Hawai’i had built in the first half proved insurmountable, leading to a 15-9 Gaucho defeat.
With this loss the Gauchos are 2-2 in conference play but will look to learn from their mistakes as they head toward the Big West Tourney. Although losing to the top seed in the Big West does not bode well, there are positives that can come from this loss.
The ‘Chos found a way to get past the stifling defense of the Rainbow Wahine in the second half, which should give them confidence that they have figured out how to establish an offensive rhythm despite being matched up against tougher opponents. With players like Legaspi getting key minutes late in games despite being a freshman, it also shows that this team has much more depth than originally expected. With many young players playing big minutes for the team, the future of the squad is very bright.
The UCSB women’s water polo team will have their senior day in their final game this upcoming Saturday, April 20, against Long Beach State at home to wrap up the regular season.