Following the program’s most successful season in school history, tallying 22 wins, women’s water polo’s Kate Pipkin walks away with this year’s Senior of the Year honors. The fourth-year utility from Costa Mesa, California was recently named to the D-1 All-American team for her second consecutive season. Pipkin received the award after an outstanding senior season, leading the Gauchos in total points scored (76). These points were earned as a result of her being second on the team in goals with 45 scored and second in assists earned at 31.
The senior captain was able to provide momentous leadership to a rather young team, which competed in a loaded Big West Conference. Pipkin made the most of her final season, playing in all 30 games and leading UCSB to a No. 3 finish in the conference tournament. After another outstanding campaign, she was selected to her third consecutive All-Big West team. The achievement makes Pipkin a perfect three for three on All-Conference selections since transferring from Indiana after her first year.
Throughout the season, Pipkin showed off her well-balanced attack, found teammates in their spots and finished shots when given opportunities. Her scoring became imperative to the team’s success late in the season, as she finished on a 10-game scoring streak, totaling 20 goals over those contests.
Pipkin has been a cornerstone piece to the UCSB women’s water polo team the past three years. Her competitive nature and passion for the game helped drive this team toward great successes. Because of this, Pipkin has earned the honor of being this year’s Daily Nexus “Female Senior of the Year.”
UC Santa Barbara men’s senior tennis star Nicolas Moreno de Alboran finished the season with a 28-9 record overall and a 15-3 performance in dual-match play while also taking home Big West Player of the Year honors for the second year in a row.
While previously holding the record for the highest-ranked Gaucho ever at No. 42 in the country upon the start of last season, de Alboran has viciously climbed the ladder where he now finds himself ranked No. 6 by the ITA Tennis National Ranking.
The senior stud is just the third Gaucho athlete to earn Division I All-American honors, following up David Decret’s 1992 and Kip Brady’s 1989 seasons.
As if we didn’t already know of de Alboran’s brilliance, he has also been invited to an exclusive 16-player wildcard tournament at the USTA National Campus in Orlando. He will be competing against eight of the top young players currently at the pro level in addition to the seven other elite college stars in which he has been recognized alongside.
So how did we get here?
UCSB started the season off strong, going 3-1 with wins over San Diego State, South Alabama and Fresno State.
Three straight losses to San Diego, Drake and Utah State now meant the Gauchos were sitting at a 3-4 record, hardly the start that winners of four straight tournament titles would expect.
Just as the group began to stumble out of the gates, they rattled off 14 wins in the final 17 games remaining to improve to an impressive 17-7.
De Alboran and Co. then proceeded to win their first NCAA tournament match since UCSB’s 1998 win over Oregon.
Losses in doubles on courts one and two for both de Alboran and senior Anders Holm and sophomore Victor Krustev and junior Joseph Guillin, respectively, meant that UCSB would have to dominate in singles if they were to move on.
Down 1-0, senior Hironori Koyanagi did just that, winning 6-1, 6-0 to tie the match.
Koyanagi mentioned after the game that losing that doubles point led to “negative” energy among the team.
A win by sophomore Joseph Rotheram was quickly followed by de Alboran’s comeback victory over Texas Tech’s No. 75 junior Parker Wynn, putting the Gauchos up 3-1 before Guillin would seal the deal.
Call him the captain or call him a leader — it doesn’t matter what your title is if you can’t step up in the big moments. De Alboran did exactly that, proving why he has been so monumental for the Gauchos this season. The comeback point for the captain provided the extra cushion to fuel UCSB’s first NCAA tournament win in two decades.
Unfortunately, UCSB fell to the hands of No. 12 Stanford in the second round. The season overall was well fought by a well trained and hardworking team led by none other than Nicolas Moreno de Alboran.