A lion tamed is by no means a lion declawed.

The UCSB men’s water polo team (4-3 overall, 2-2 MPSF) is sure to discover just that this weekend at the annual Nor-Cal tournament when they face Loyola Marymount for the second time in the last week.

The Lions are sure to come ready to play after they were overpowered last Sunday by a tenacious Gauchos’ defense. All-American senior Tom Coughlan believed that his team will be ready as well.

“We have a decisive mental advantage over them because of last week’s win,” Coughlan said. “But that is not to say that we don’t consider them a threat. They have a balanced team and we are definitely not looking past them.”

Santa Barbara had a great deal of trouble getting past the first round in past years of the tourney, but this season’s early success has earned the team a high berth at the prestigious tournament. UCSB is currently riding a three-game winning streak and should be able to brush aside any threat the Lions may pose on Saturday at Stanford’s new Avery Complex.

“This year is something of a culmination for the seniors on this team,” senior utility Reid Particelli said. “We have had some tough times at this tournament, to be sure, but we are confident we have what it takes this year to advance into the winners’ bracket.”

If UCSB is able to defeat LMU, they will likely face USC in their second game on Saturday. The Trojans are pitted against UC Davis, which is adjusting to a new coach and is not considered a major threat to Santa Barbara.

Other first round matches include: LBSU vs. UOP, UCLA vs. Air Force, Stanford vs. Santa Clara, UCI vs. UCSD, and a round robin between Cal, Pepperdine and Cal Baptist. UCLA is the defending champion, but its legacy of domination has long since passed. The undefeated Stanford Cardinals, led by freshman U.S. national team member Tony Azevedo, is now the team to beat.

UCSB is fully capable of competing with all of these teams and should it advance into the later rounds. It would be a major mistake for any team to take the Gauchos lightly. Despite its inexperience in championship play, UCSB is stacked with eight fifth-year seniors and a number of underclassmen who are already turning heads around the nation. Anything less than a top-eight finish would be a disappointment.

“This team has everything it takes to win,” freshman two-meter Mark Welch said. “We have no obvious weaknesses and we are all hungry to make some noise this weekend. We will not disappoint.”