The teams are circling like sharks in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, each hungering for a victory, and the #5 UCSB men’s water polo team smells like blood.
“Every day is a new day and we don’t rely on anything we’ve done so far as being overly significant because we have to prove ourselves today – every day, every practice, every game,” UCSB Head Coach Joe O’Brien said.
The Gauchos (14-5) take their game on the road to face off against MPSF foes #15 Pacific and #4 Cal Saturday and Sunday, respectively. The Gauchos were victorious last weekend against UC San Diego in a rematch of the fifth-place deciding game in the NorCal Tournament, but they are trying to stay focused on the games at hand.
“Cal is exceptionally deep; they can go three players deep at any spot,” O’Brien said. “UOP is, I’m sure, going to take us as a huge opportunity to knock off an opponent that’s ranked higher than them and, at this point, pretty high. They’re different, but they’re equally dangerous.”
The Gauchos will look to many members of the team to score goals and play defense this weekend, including senior driver Andrew Schoneberger, who scored his 100th career goal last weekend against UC San Diego. Alexander, who has a team-high 41 goals so far this season, looks to extend his eight-game scoring streak.
Sophomore two-meter Matt Dale and freshman utility Robbie Bauer have been clutch for Santa Barbara, collectively contributing 30 goals this season. UCSB has been using multiple players in different positions to work its magic this season in pursuit of its playoff dreams.
“At the beginning of the year, we had an open canvas and we hadn’t put anything up there yet, and now we’ve put up a number of different offensives, defenses and alignments,” O’Brien said. “We’re starting to find out who can do what, what situations people respond in. We’re building some chemistry as we go through this.”
This weekend starts off the last 10 games of the season for the Gauchos, half of which are away, before things really heat up at the MPSF Tournament, which starts Nov. 26 in Palo Alto.