The UCSB men’s water polo team is starting to live up to its potential.
After suffering a loss to red-hot Long Beach State on Saturday, the Gauchos rebounded on Sunday at San Diego, defeating the UCSD Tritons, 7-5.
For the sixth consecutive match, the Gauchos were simply outplayed by a Long Beach squad that is firing on all cylinders. Santa Barbara hung tough for a quarter and a half, but was outscored 7-0 over a span of 5:32. The Gauchos played the 49ers even for the rest of the contest and fell by a final score of 13-8.
UCSB’s offense was clicking from the outset as it took an early 3-2 lead, while the 49ers struggled to find a rhythm. However, Long Beach has won four straight, and it is a team that always seems to take quick advantage of its opponents’ mistakes.
Unfortunately, the Gauchos committed three such errors to end the half, and Long Beach was true to form. Senior national team member Chris Segesman was left open on the perimeter, Gaucho junior Anthony Borasi was ejected on the next play, and, after a goal by Long Beach junior Max Aguilar from two-meters, the Gauchos found themselves on the short end of a 6-4 stick.
It would get even worse for the Gauchos, as the 49ers scored four more goals to open the third quarter. With their offense sputtering, UCSB had too many defensive miscues down the stretch for them to stay in the game. The teams traded goals en route to a 13-8 finish.
“We just haven’t played them solid for four quarters yet,” senior utility Tom Coughlan said. “It is frustrating because we know we are just as good a team as them, but we always have some kind of letdown defensively.”
At this point the Gauchos put that loss aside and stayed the course. The defeat was unfortunate, but the Gauchos’ best water polo is starting to surface. Indeed, UCSB bounced back with steadfast resolve.
The Gauchos never trailed at San Diego and dominated the game throughout, typical of a staunch defensive team. UCSB played the type of controlled offense and commanding defense that it has worked on for years, and it seems poised to turn heads at the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation tournament at Berkeley.
UCSD scored three goals in the fourth quarter, but the outcome had long since been decided. With two goals in each of the first three quarters, combined with stellar perimeter defense, the Gauchos put together a complete game against a formidable opponent to earn the victory. Unfortunately for UCSB this year, it has played great for twenty-seven minutes, only to lose at the bitter end four times to MPSF opponents.
“This win is a good sign for us, especially since they beat us so badly at the NorCal tourney,” junior two-meter set Pat Treman said. “It was important for us to learn from our mistakes on Saturday and come out here, in front of a tough crowd, and play our game.”
The Gauchos played their game well and should be confident that they are good enough to beat any team. If they can learn to stick to their own game plan for 28 minutes, they will pose a very formidable threat to any team that they may face in Berkeley.