The game couldn’t have been much closer, and in the end, the #6 UCSB women’s water polo team couldn’t have been much happier.

After battling through three overtimes against #5 Hawai’i, Gaucho sophomore Erin Lezak netted a crucial goal for Santa Barbara with 1:55 remaining in the fourth overtime. UCSB’s defense made Lezak’s goal stand, and the Gauchos went on to win 9-8.

UCSB fell behind early 4-1, with junior Kelley Tiffany scoring the Gauchos’ only goal in the first quarter.

Santa Barbara (9-9, 4-4 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) then rallied in the second quarter, starting with a goal from senior Cathy Holmberg. Junior Mary Blumberg got on the board only 45 seconds later, scoring a goal to pull UCSB to within one, 4-3. The Gauchos then continued the onslaught, as Tiffany scored her second goal of the game to tie the score at 4-4. Junior Jenny Holladay added to Santa Barbara’s run, scoring with 1:36 left in the second quarter to give UCSB a 5-4 lead.

Tiffany then opened the third quarter with her third goal, completing a 5-0 run for UCSB and giving the Gauchos a 6-4 lead. With momentum on its side, Santa Barbara then looked to close out Hawai’i. However, UH (13-7, 1-6) was not about to go quietly, and the Rainbows answered UCSB’s run with back-to-back goals of their own to tie the score to six heading into the fourth quarter.

Sophomore Teresa Gorbett put Santa Barbara up 7-6 with only 5:07 left to play in the fourth quarter, and it appeared that the Gauchos had the game in hand. But Hawai’i scored only a minute and a half later, tying the game at seven and sending it into the first overtime.

In the first extra frame, Hawai’i went up 8-7 on a goal from senior Andy Nishioka. UCSB responded, with Holmberg scoring in the second overtime to tie the game at eight.

Hawai’i threatened to end the game in the third OT, but senior goalie Yvonne Conard made a one-handed save with only 19 seconds left to send the game into the fourth OT and into sudden death.

In the first sudden-death period – and third overtime – neither team could find the net, and with both teams tiring, a goal from either side seemed unlikely to come quickly. After finishing the scoreless third OT, Lezak finally ended the marathon with her clutch score in the fourth overtime period.

UCSB will now compete this weekend in the Easter Invitational in Long Beach.