Anteaters usually don’t put up much resistance to Gauchos.

Last Saturday, the UCSB women’s water polo team squared off against Irvine, easily dispatching the Anteaters 8-6 at Irvine.

No. 12 Santa Barbara was able to jump all over No. 17 UCI from the outset of the match, and the Gauchos certainly had something to prove to other teams in the conference after an uninspired performance two weekends ago against USC.

“We know there are a few teams that are very difficult to match up against, but we feel like we are one of those teams that can be very dangerous if we stay in the game,” senior utility Britt Riss said.

The Gauchos (16-14 overall, 4-6 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) did more than just stay in the game on Friday: they completely dominated an overwhelmed opponent. Led by UCSB’s all-time leading scorer, senior two-meter Kelley Tiffany, the Gauchos took a 3-1 first quarter lead.

The Gauchos have generally struggled in the early portion of its matches, not being able to find any cohesive rhythm. The problems have forced UCSB to play catch-up to most of its opponents.

That was not the case Friday, as an aggressive defensive scheme translated into only three goals through three quarters for the Anteaters.

“We were definitely happy with the way we controlled the game from the start,” senior utility Mary Blumberg said. “Sometimes it takes us an entire half to get into the game, so we were pleased with the way we dominated the first half.”

Indeed, the Gauchos had not scored five or more goals in the first half of any game since Feb. 3, a rout of UC Santa Cruz. The strong first half unfortunately translated into a fourth-quarter letdown in which the Anteaters, led by two goals from utility Lauren Volcan, pulled to within one. Suddenly a game that belonged solely to the Gauchos through three quarters was up for grabs.

UCSB would respond to the challenge with a goal from junior guard Teressa Gorbett and stifling defense to close out the match. The fourth-quarter scare was enough to attract the coaching staff’s attention.

“We do have a tendency to let up our guard in games where we feel like we are in control,” UCSB Assistant Coach Kevin Ricks said. “We will not have that luxury against UCLA next weekend.”

To be sure, the Gauchos will have their hands full against the Bruins, who recently took over the top ranking after a victory over USC last weekend.

UCSB and UCLA have not met this season, so the Gauchos are hoping that a low-scoring first half will be to their advantage. April 20 is the last home game of the season for the Gauchos, who will honor seniors Tiffany, Blumberg, Riss, Yvonne Conrad, Jenny Holladay and Maureen Rabe at Campus Pool.