Los Angeles, CA – According to popular opinion, the UCSB men’s water polo team has been knocking on the door of greatness for the last two years. After Sunday’s 8-7 loss to UCLA at Sunset Canyon Recreation Center, it is evident the Gauchos need to stop knocking and simply kick down the door.
In its other weekend game, Santa Barbara easily defeated Air Force at Loyola Marymount, its seventh straight victory against the Falcon.
UCSB (8-8 overall, 2-5 MPSF) played well against the Bruins, but was forced to play catch-up after allowing four straight goals in the first half.
In their last three games against MPSF opponents, the Gauchos have been outscored 9-1 in the first quarter.
Nonetheless, in this game UCSB was able to rally to start the second half, and goals by junior Pat Treman and senior captain Joey Pacelli cut the Bruin lead to one with two minutes left in the quarter. Although UCLA held its advantage, the Bruins made many defensive mistakes in the second half that allowed the Gauchos back in the contest.
“We played them very aggressive and actually outscored them 3-0 in the third quarter,” UCSB Head Coach Joe O’Brien said. “We just need to figure out what it takes to play that way for the whole game.”
In the fourth quarter, the Gauchos had opportunities to score, but could not overtake UCLA. The Bruins’ outside shooting was stellar, and six of their eight goals were scored from the perimeter. In fact, the Bruins only scored one of their four man-up opportunities, and only once out of two-meters. But defensive mistakes by the Gauchos allowed good Bruin shooters to take high percentage shots.
The match was hard-fought, and the team should not be disappointed with its effort. However, a loss is a loss, and the Gauchos acknowledge that they cannot absorb each loss continuously.
This year, UCSB has given every top-ten team a close, intense battle, either at home or away. The Gauchos are defensive-minded and run a patient offense. All of these are aspects of a good collegiate water polo team. However, a great team finds ways to win close games, and the Gauchos have not done that.
Four of their five league losses have been decided by one goal. Had they won those games, the Gauchos would have a 6-1 league record, second only to undefeated Stanford. Instead, UCSB finds itself needing a win at Long Beach State next weekend to move into sixth place.
“Sometimes we actually overmatch teams, but we feel one way and exhibit something different,” O’Brien said. “When we finally learn that how you feel should not affect how you play, our fortunes will change.”