The UCSB men’s water polo team’s attempt to upset California-Berkeley on the road came up short in a thrilling sudden death overtime loss last Saturday.
Golden Bear player Joe Kaiser backhanded the ball past senior goalie Trevor Spence with 1:08 left in the sudden death fourth period of overtime to steal a 7-6 win from the Gauchos (1-3, 0-1 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation).
Santa Barbara led for most of the match but could not put away the pesky California attack that responded with goals to stay within reach and ultimately overtake UCSB.
The Golden Bears snuck out to an early 3-2 lead in the first period after two Gaucho goals by senior co- captain driver Joey Pacelli.
UCSB recaptured momentum in the second period from goals by junior two-meter Patrick Treman and senior co-captain utility Tom Coughlan. The defense did its end of the work, shutting out the Bears to jump ahead 4-3.
But Cal answered right back in the third period with two goals to Santa Barbara’s one to knot the match up, 5-5. The lone Gaucho score came from Coughlan.
The fourth period was a defensive dogfight and both squads failed to score. Both teams headed to a scoreless first overtime.
In the second overtime period, freshman two-meter Mark Welch found the back of the net with 2:07 remaining. Clawing back all day, Cal naturally responded with a strike with 1:25 left to retie the game, 6-6. Both teams failed to score in the third overtime period and then Kaiser’s shot went in past Spence to end the match.
Santa Barbara had four scoring opportunities wiped out in overtime due to penalties.
“We played well enough to win, we just missed some shots,” junior playmaker Kyle Ashley said.
Returning two All-Americans who redshirted in 2000, the Gauchos feel they can compete with just about any team in the nation. Two weeks ago, the Gauchos lost to then top-ranked USC on a last-second goal nearly in the same fashion as the Cal match.
“We are a very good team. We have all the pieces of the puzzle here to win, we just need to execute,” Pacelli said. “We just need to work out our mistakes in practice and things should work out for themselves.”
UCSB Head Coach Joe O’Brien was distraught over the loss to Berkeley in front of a tough Bear crowd.
“Whenever you go into sudden death, a game always gets decided by a freakish play, and that’s what happened to us,” O’Brien said. “It is very frustrating.”
Santa Barbara tasted some success Wednesday afternoon, defeating #20 La Verne, 10-3. In a dominant offensive display from the Gauchos, UCSB led 5-0 after one period of play and pulled most of its starters midway through the second period. Seven different Gauchos scored, with junior defender Anthony Borasi, freshman utility Brian Alexander and freshman driver Andrew Schoneberger scoring two goals apiece. Goalie Trevor Spence had four saves in the win.
Assistant Coach Kevin Ricks remained upbeat even after Santa Barbara’s latest setback.
“We played a really good game, and it’s still early in the season,” Ricks said. “If we keep playing hard like we did on Saturday and last Wednesday, the wins will start coming.”
The Gauchos return to action at the Campus Poolthis Sunday against Pacific at 1:00 p.m.