The Santa Barbara women’s water polo team finishes out its regular season on the road this weekend as the Gauchos travel to UC Irvine today and Long Beach State on Saturday.
Today’s game will be a battle for outright control of ninth place in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MSPF) standings.
“We’re going there to win and take a step ahead of [Irvine] in the standings,” Head Coach Danielle Altman said. “We want to go out and prove that we’re the better team.”
The Gauchos (12-15, 2-7 in the MPSF) take a 1-5 road record to Irvine where the Anteaters have yet to win a game this season. UCSB defeated Irvine 5-3 at Campus Pool in January, the two teams’ only other meeting this season.
Irvine (8-18, 2-7 in the MPSF) is lead by freshman driver Robyn Kaake and seniors Melissa Fernandez and Erica Horman. Kaake leads the team with 38 goals on the season, while Fernandez and Horman have netted 28 goals apiece.
Despite their losing record, the Gauchos have outscored their opponents 144-135 this season thanks, in part, to their leading scorer sophomore Jennifer D’Anna, who has tallied 35 goals through 27 games this year. Junior Katy Kunkel and sophomore Alaina Whitaker have also been key playmakers for UCSB, combining for 37 goals on the season.
Saturday the Gauchos will look for the upset at #4 Long Beach State. The 49ers (19-6, 6-4 in the MPSF) currently hold possession of fifth place in the MPSF. The regular season finale will be the Gauchos’ and 49ers’ first meeting of the season.
Altman said that Santa Barbara must create offensive mismatches to win a victory over a Long Beach State team that has gone 8-2 at home this year.
“They’re definitely a great team,” Altman said of Long Beach State. “But we definitely have the capability of getting in there and battling with them.”
UCSB is looking for a strong finish this weekend heading into next week’s MPSF Championship Tournament. The tournament will be held April 30 through May 2 in Long Beach.