At only the midpoint of their grueling five-month season, this year’s UCSB women’s water polo team has seen its share of both glory and heartbreak. The Gauchos raced to a 7-0 start, but have since fallen in troubled waters and lost three straight.
San Jose State dropped Santa Barbara 8-6 and the Gauchos were overpowered on Saturday by top-ranked Stanford, 9-2.
UCSB (12-9 overall, 1-2 MPSF) was able to jump to a 2-0 lead against the Spartans of San Jose State on goals by senior two-meter set Kelley Tiffany and junior two-meter guard Teresa Gorbett. The Spartans looked lethargic and unmotivated, whereas UCSB was full of energy and perhaps a bit shocked that they had so easily stolen the momentum.
“They were definitely slower than us to start the game,” junior utility Kim Feig said. “We were able to get a couple easy goals and we thought we had strong momentum going into the second half.”
However, the upset-minded Gauchos would let the Spartans back into the match after a few defensive miscues cost UCSB two easy goals to start the second half. The momentum would shift again, as Tiffany and sophomore Mica Bell scored consecutive goals to tie the game 4-4 at the end of the third quarter.
The fourth quarter that followed will not be easily forgotten by the Gaucho women, as they allowed four straight goals in a matter of three minutes and subsequently squandered an opportunity to knock off a top-five team in league play.
“They changed their defense, and we weren’t able to make the proper adjustments,” UCSB Head Coach Pam Tanase said. “There were two or three sequences when they stole the ball out of set and scored on the counterattack that really gave them some offensive momentum.”
Indeed, too much offensive momentum. The Spartans’ four-goal spurt allowed them to quickly take control of a match that had, at one point, been a defensive struggle. Although fourth-quarter goals by Gorbett and senior co-captain Mary Blumberg provided a spark, it would be too little too late for the Gauchos, as the final tally read 8-6.
Saturday’s game against top-ranked Stanford was a different story. However, the Gauchos would once again find themselves on the short end of a much longer stick. The Cardinal proved their mettle early in the contest and shut the Gauchos out in the first quarter, 4-0.
“They are very sound defensively, and they counterattack very well,” said Tanase. “We weren’t getting back on defense, and they overpowered us in transition.”
In fact, Stanford scored nine straight goals in the game before the Gauchos came alive in the fourth quarter. Goals by Gorbett and freshman Erin Miller prevented the shutout.