The saga continues for the UCSB men’s water polo team.
The Gauchos were soundly defeated 10-4 by UC Irvine on Sunday. The match was billed as Santa Barbara’s warm-up for this Friday’s first-round contest against UCLA in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Championships at California Berkeley’s Speiker Pool.
Instead, the Gauchos performed poorly from the start, opening the door for an Anteater victory. The loss cast some serious doubt on UCSB’s hopes to upset the second-seeded Bruins.
Whatever needs repair in the Gaucho machine must be rapidly addressed this week. UCSB has only four days of practice to prepare for a Bruin squad whose sole league loss was to the season’s Goliath of the pool, Stanford.
One of the problems may be an inconsistent approach to defense. Once the trademark of UCSB water polo, the Gaucho defense has taken some hits lately. UCSB has given up 28 goals in its last three contests. Irvine, with a historically weak offense, managed to score 10 on Saturday.
“It seemed like whenever we had some momentum going, they would get a lucky goal,” senior utility Tom Coughlan said. “Most of their goals came just when it seemed we might make something happen. We would be down one, and they would score two, or something like that.”
Coughlan’s frustration was echoed by his teammates in a contest where nothing went right for the Gauchos. Irvine’s first goal came on a desperation shot that was tipped, changed direction and floated into the goal. UCSB All-American goalie Trevor Spence got a hand on almost every shot, but was unable to keep the ball out of the goal.
UCSB finished the half well with goals by freshman utility Brian Alexander and senior captain and driver Joey Pacelli, who cut the lead 6-3.
Santa Barbara played solid defense through the third quarter, and freshman Mark Welch’s second goal of the match brought the Gauchos to within two.
Any momentum UCSB had harnessed was lost, however, when Irvine senior Chris Kirshwehm took another desperation shot from eight meters that found the net as time expired in the third quarter.
“We were definitely outplayed, but what was worse was how everything that could go right for them and wrong for us, did,” freshman goalie Paul Vacquier said.
The Gauchos’ attempts just weren’t good enough to pull off the win, and Santa Barbara must put yet another loss behind them, and focus on UCLA. The Bruins have a bevy of offensive players to draw from, and the Gauchos will have to fight hard against the Bruin defense to put up big numbers.