A team can lose composure and let one defeat ruin its season. Or it can use the defeat as a wake-up call and build off of it.

Although the end result wasn’t always a victory, the #9 UCSB men’s water polo team didn’t back down from challenges the squad faced and ended its 2000 season falling just short against many teams that dominated the Gauchos earlier in the year.

“It was a disappointing season by the fact that we lost so many games, but we were glad that we improved over the course of the year,” sophomore driver Kyle Ashley said. “You can tell how much we improved by looking at our level of play in our games against Stanford. The first time we played them they dominated us [UCSB lost 15-5 on Sept. 24] but this past game we only lost to them 10-8, which shows how far we’ve come from the beginning of the year.”

UCSB (6-17 overall, 1-8 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) faced off against Pepperdine, Irvine, Long Beach State and Loyola Marymount at least once and improved on its performances in the second games.

“We kept improving throughout the season, and we’ve built up a solid team for next year,” sophomore two-meter man Patrick Treman said. “[Senior driver] Paul Rave was one of our strongest players. He played intense every game. Every moment he was in the water, he played with all he had – it was inspiring.”

Rave, who led the team in scoring this year, carried UCSB to a 12-8 season-opener victory against La Verne by scoring four goals. Treman wasn’t far behind, pitching in three goals of his own.

Santa Barbara lost its next two matches but quickly recovered in time for the So Cal Tournament that took place Sept. 16-17. The Gauchos picked up a win against the Navy, 7-3, but lost their next three games for tenth place.

Treman secured a 9-8 win for UCSB in its MPSF opening match against Pacific with four goals on Sept. 23. However, the Gauchos got a taste of the toughest teams in their next two matches, falling to Stanford 15-5 and UCLA 11-3.

Determined to end their two-game losing streak, the Gauchos took a 5-1 lead over Loyola Marymount on Oct. 6. The Lions roared back in the second half but Treman’s fourth goal late in the game proved insurmountable for Loyola, and Santa Barbara hung on for an 8-6 victory.

The Gauchos broke their four-game losing streak at the Nor Cal Tournament when they beat Santa Clara 6-4. Leading the team with two goals against Santa Clara, freshman utility John Purcell is impressed with the level of play in college water polo and believes the team can break through next year.

“In college water polo there is a lot more swimming, and it’s a faster paced game than at the high school level,” Purcell said. “I had never played with these guys before, and throughout the season we began playing more as a team. We’re satisfied with the progress we’ve been making, and if we carry that into next year we’ll be in a spot for an NCAA title.”

The Gauchos ended their season earlier than they wished when they were knocked out by Stanford for the eighth seed in the MPSF championships this past weekend. However, the team learned a lot this season and is looking forward to next year.

“I saw this year as an improving year,” Ashley said. “A lot of guys got experience who hadn’t played much, and we improved in all aspects of the game. Next year we have two of our best players coming back, [junior driver] Joey Pacelli and [junior utility] Tom Coughlan, who are both All-Americans. I think everyone believes we can win next year.”