For the second time in two weeks, UCSB women’s water polo will face off against conference opponent San Jose State.
This time, the Spartans and Gauchos will be battling to keep their respective seasons alive in the first round of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) Championship Tournament. Despite the two teams’ matching conference records, San Jose State (14-15, 4-7 in the MPSF) received the eighth seed because of its win over UCSB on April 18. The Gauchos (14-14, 4-7 in the MPSF) got the ninth seed in the tournament for the second straight year.
The game will be a rematch of last season’s eighth and ninth seeded games in which UCSB came out on the winning end of a 3-2 decision. The Gauchos were knocked out of the 2003 tournament in the second round by then first seed Stanford.
“I think it’s a good match up for us,” UCSB Head Coach Danielle Altman said. “It’s good for us to have an opportunity to play San Jose again and really play them how we should have before.”
San Jose State’s leading scorer, junior two-meter Laura Scott, has netted 42 goals on the season and led the Spartans with two goals in their 6-4 win over UCSB in the Gauchos’ final home game of the year.
The Gauchos will counter with leading goal-scorer Jen D’Anna. The sophomore utility’s 36th goal of the season was the overtime game winner Saturday, giving UCSB its 6-5 upset win over #4 Long Beach State in the regular season finale.
“After this weekend, we all really understand the level we’re capable of playing at,” junior two-meter Katy Kunkel said. “It’s always nice to beat San Jose, and we beat them last year in this same game.”
The Gauchos would not have returned home with two road victories last weekend if not for Kunkel’s play at UC Irvine and Long Beach State. The Dove Canyon native had two goals in each game, giving her four on the weekend and 23 on the season.
“Katy played a smart, well-rounded game of water polo,” Altman said of Kunkel’s Saturday showing. “She just made really great adjustments and put a lot of thought into her shots.”
The performance caught the eye of the MPSF conference, granting Kunkel this week’s Player of the Week award, the first of her career.
Santa Barbara will have a tough task ahead in the next round should they defeat San Jose State. The winner of the game will take on first-seeded University of Southern California in the second round of the tournament. USC is undefeated 24-0 on the season.
The Spartans and Gauchos kick things off Friday morning at 10 a.m. at Los Alamitos Naval Base in Long Beach.