The UCSB men’s swimming team turned in a dominating performance at Campus Pool on Saturday over the University of Pacific.

The Gauchos routed their Big West rivals by a score of 171-91 to earn their first dual-meet win of the season. The strong performance at the meet gave the team some momentum as it charges towards the Big West Tournament in late February.

After suffering back-to-back defeats at the hands of Arizona State and USC to start the season, the Gauchos, under the leadership of Head Coach Gregg Wilson, came in determined to get back on the right track. They came out of the gates fast and never looked back. The team was on top of its game in many different facets of the competition, and it recorded victories in 11 of 14. The Gauchos even put an exclamation point on their afternoon by sweeping three events: the 100-meter and 200-meter breaststroke, and the 500-meter freestyle.

“We came into the meet looking for a solid victory,” junior freestyle swimmer Kevin Herlihy said. “We knew we were the better team. Everyone knew what they were there to do, and they got it done.”

UCSB was the beneficiary of many key performances by its top athletes last Saturday:

* Sophomore Matt Wheeler began his 2001 campaign right where he left off in 2000, recording a first place finish in both the 200-meter backstroke (1:53:14) and the 200 IM (1:54:13). Wheeler finished a strong second in the 100 back (53:37) for three top-two finishes.
* Junior Ethan Hall, the All-American transfer from North Carolina, was perfect in winning both the 100 (58:74) and 200 breaststroke (2:05:94).
* Freshman Eric Koch contributed to Gaucho victory by winning the 500 (4:37:90) and 1000 free (9:30:76).
* Senior Ryan Koch was victorious in the 100 (52:25) and 200 butterfly (1:51:51).
* The Gauchos also took first in the 200 IM relay and the 200 free relay.

“Our whole team was ready for this,” Ryan Koch said. “We really came together. Everybody did their part. I can’t think of one individual performance that stood out. This was a total team effort.”

The ultimate goal for the Gauchos will be now be to perform as well in late February as they did this past weekend. The end of February marks the beginning of the Big West Tournament, the biggest spectacle for the men to show off their skills and talents in the pool. In fact, the Gauchos boast a trio of nationally ranked swimmers. Wheeler is currently ranked third in the 200 IM, while teammate Eric Koch is in the top 20 in both the 500 and 1600 free. Ethan Hall is ranked in the Top 25 for the 100 backstroke. If UCSB can continue to progress, it should be in good shape for the remainder of the season.

“Everything is going well right now,” junior freestyle swimmer David Arneson said. “Team morale is high. Everyone’s swimming well. Our hopes are high for the Big West Tournament.”

“I’m predicting a strong win for the Gauchos in the tournament,” Herlihy said. “We’re only getting better. We have just too much talent.”

Santa Barbara will take to the road as they travel by bus to Las Vegas to face conference opponent UNLV in a dual meet on Saturday, Jan. 20, at noon. The two teams faced one another last year, with UCSB barely edging out the Runnin’ Rebels by two points.