It was wartime in enemy waters for the #5 UCSB men’s water polo team, but the Gauchos emerged victorious, defeating #14 Pacific 8-3 on Saturday and #4 Berkeley 7-6 on Sunday in overtime. The Gauchos improved to 16-5 overall and 2-0 in Mountain Pacific Sports Federation play and have won the past eight of nine games.
“It’s been a long time since we’ve had that double win up there; it definitely feels good,” UCSB Head Coach Joe O’Brien said. “Our success is a function of what we’re doing right. We don’t rely on one person to score the goals. The other team keys on what they think will be our primary attack, and the rest of the players are shouldering the responsibility very well.”
Senior utility Brian Alexander scored a total of four goals this weekend, extending his scoring streak to 10 games. History repeated itself in the Pacific game when he netted one of the three Santa Barbara hat tricks this weekend, just as he did in all three victories over the Tigers last year. Senior driver Andrew Schoneberger also scored three goals in the Pacific game for a hat trick of his own.
The Gauchos got the game started in Stockton, scoring three goals in the first quarter to the Tigers’ two. That was all the time the UCSB defense needed to warm up, as it only allowed one more Pacific goal after that, shutting the Tigers out in the second and fourth quarters. Junior utility Chris Gronow contributed two goals and junior keeper Jon Bonafede had six saves.
Santa Barbara traveled west to the Spieker Aquatics Complex in Berkeley to tackle the Bears, a game that went into overtime before the Gauchos came away with the victory. Sophomore driver Ross Sinclair scored the first of his three goals of the day with 27 seconds left in the first quarter. After Cal junior Tom Kurth scored with 6:27 to go in the second, UCSB went on a 3-0 scoring run to give them the 4-1 advantage heading into the third period. The teams battled until the end of regulation before Cal sophomore John Mann sent it into overtime with a goal with 1:08 left in the fourth. Both teams scored one goal each in the first overtime period to force a second, but junior driver Ramiro Saldain scored to hand the Bears their fifth consecutive loss and the first loss of the season to a lower-ranked team.
“In the Cal game, they had 13 power plays to our seven ; they scored on five of them, but we defended them very well,” O’Brien said. “We did a good job on our own of creating natural goals. In all reality, we did have our lapses, and when we did, [junior goalkeeper Jon] Bonafede saved us, especially in the Cal game where he had 18 saves, – a pretty prodigious number.”
Santa Barbara again travels away next weekend to take on USC and Loyola Marymount.