The UCSB women’s water polo team was back in action last weekend against a pair of San Diego rivals.
The Gauchos (9-5 overall, 1-0 MPSF) first squared off against No. 9 UC San Diego on Friday, followed by a MPSF showdown versus San Diego State on Saturday. UCSB came out a bit lethargic against the Tritons, perhaps the result of a four-hour bus ride that same day, losing 7-6. The Gauchos then responded with a 7-6 win of their own over the Aztecs.
UCSD jumped to an early 3-0 lead on Friday, as Santa Barbara had trouble converting on numerous opportunities.
“We weren’t playing particularly poorly, but our shots just weren’t going in,” senior utility Britt Riss said.
The Tritons continued their attack well into the second half, and it seemed as if UCSB was in for a long day. But goals down the stretch from junior two-meter Teressa Gorbet, freshman utility Katy Kunkel and junior two-meter Kim Feig resurrected the Gauchos to a 6-6 tie with precious little time left.
Unfortunately, fatigue caught up with Santa Barbara, and it was forced to commit a late foul that gave the Tritons a 7-6 lead to end the game.
Saturday’s contest would yield the same score, except the Gauchos would emerge victorious in their league match against the Aztecs. UCSB used a relentless counterattack and stifling defense down the stretch to fend off a feisty SDSU squad.
Consecutive goals in the second quarter by offensive stalwart senior two-meter Kelley Tiffany gave the Gauchos a cushion heading into the second half. Yet their lead would not last, as the scrappy Aztecs quickly reversed the momentum to start the second half.
“We jumped on them early, but we got a little too comfortable and they took full advantage of that in the second half,” Tiffany said.
Indeed, the Aztecs never let up, even while they trailed for most of the game. A passive Gaucho offense allowed SDSU to create scoring opportunities on the counterattack, and UCSB found itself tied with its MPSF rival at the end of regulation.
In overtime, Santa Barbara looked to Tiffany to lead it to victory, repeatedly feeding the ball to last year’s MVP, Tiffany, in hopes she would provide the needed overtime score.
“K.T.” indeed came through for UCSB once again, as she drew the crucial penalty shot that would eventually seal the match for the Gauchos.
“Even though we lost on Friday, the game on Saturday was a league match, so we are much more elated with the win than we are disappointed with the loss,” senior co-captain driver Mary Blumberg said.
The Gauchos will face Michigan on Friday at 5 p.m. before taking on Long Beach State to open this year’s Gaucho Invitational, taking place all weekend at Campus Pool.