The UCSB water polo team played hard against top-ranked USC at the UCSB RecCen pool on Sunday, but the Gauchos dropped a tight game 9-7. The Gauchos also lost on the road against #6 UC San Diego on Friday 11-6.

Friday’s game proved from the beginning to be a difficult test for the Gauchos. San Diego took a commanding 4-0 lead in the first quarter at UCSD’s Canyon View pool. More than 1,000 attended to watch the Tritons beat Santa Barbara.

“We started out slow. They had a good lead on us. We had some bad calls, but the game just got away from us and it ended poorly,” senior driver and captain Doug Arthur said.

The Gauchos battled back to bring the score to 7-5 in the third quarter, and they seemed ready for a last-quarter comeback. Unfortunately, two four-meter penalty shots were called on the Gauchos, and UCSD pushed ahead to finish on top. Arthur, junior utility Brian Alexander, freshman driver Ross Sinclair, junior driver Andrew Schoneberger and freshman two-meter Matt Dale all scored goals while junior goalkeeper Mike Hoy stopped five shots from reaching the back of the net.

Sunday’s game was a dogfight throughout. Alexander led the Gaucho offense with three goals, one of which was a strike from a four-meter penalty shot. The goal brought UCSB into the fourth quarter down by just one score. The intense battle continued into the final quarter, but the Trojans held on for a two-goal lead to beat the Gauchos. USC improved to 5-1 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, bringing Santa Barbara to 0-6 in the MPSF and 11-14 overall.

“It felt good because we played well, but it was still a disappointing loss,” Arthur said. “But hopefully this will give us the momentum to finish the season strong.”

Alexander, Schoneberger, freshman driver Matt Tilburg and Dale all netted goals for the Gauchos. Freshman goalkeeper Rick Wright increased his game average with nine saves.

The Gauchos have started their conference schedule poorly after reeling through the preseason and tournament season. With two games remaining in conference, Santa Barbara hopes to overcome its recent trials with a pair of wins. To conclude their season, the Gauchos play #2 Berkeley on Saturday and University of the Pacific on Sunday at 3 p.m. at the RecCen pool.