Nine seniors gone. Four players out the rest of the season. A 3-9 record.
From these statistics, most would think that the UCSB roller hockey club team would have no hope of pulling out a regional championship appearance, but that is exactly what the team is focused on achieving.
With the season more than halfway complete, Santa Barbara looks to improve its record in the next two tournaments on Jan. 25 and Feb. 1 where the squad will face rivals Cal Poly and Chico State. UCSB’s last meetings with these two teams ended in a 2-1 loss to the Mustangs and a 6-2 setback to the Wildcats.
“Last year we lost a lot of players,” sophomore assistant captain Jon Tu said. “Our team this year is young and small, but this team could do well if we put our mind to it.”
With only two juniors and one senior, the team knows its inexperience may hinder a shot at a regional championship appearance. If the Gauchos do not improve their record, they risk the chance of not going to the Western Collegiate Hockey League Regional Championships.
The team has never missed an appearance.
“The next tournament in Upland may help our record because we are playing some teams that we can beat,” junior assistant captain Mike Saksen said. “Each person needs to contribute a lot more. Our freshmen are really intense and commit themselves a lot.”
Even with the pressure of the next few weeks on their shoulders, the players managed to give back to the local Santa Barbara community over the past weekend. The team helped the Santa Barbara Youth Hockey League hold its tryouts on Saturday. In between each tryout the team gave free clinics to each age group to help the kids with their hockey skills.
“The clinic was free to the kids. It was really fun coaching them,” Tu said. “Some of the parents did give us some donations and bought some of our apparel, so it was a good fundraiser for the team as well.”
All fun aside, the team knows how important these next few weeks are. The team hopes that freshmen like Evan Markgraf, Gordan Jack and Yu Matsumoto will continue to shine alongside their other teammates.
“We are really trying to make a push for regionals,” junior Greg Franks said. “We need to improve on working together more. Things can only improve for us.”
Another monkey wrench thrown into the fray is the lack of a coach. The team has been without a coach for a number of years, forcing the captains of the team to guide each of their practices on Wednesday and Sunday nights at the Earl Warren Showgrounds.
“My only wish for the team would be to get a coach,” Franks said. “Unfortunately, we cannot afford to pay for a coach and it is hard to find a volunteer coach with the experience and skills to help us at such a high level of competition.”
Whatever you do, do not ask the team if this is a rebuilding year. UCSB knows they have struggled to accomplish its goals, but the players also know how much talent and promise the team can display.
“We show a lot of promise for the next few years,” Tu said. “This team shows a lot of promise but sometimes we don’t live up to that promise.”
The team hopes that their inexperience and small size will not hinder their hopes or a regional appearance, but only time will tell.