It was tricks instead of treats for the UCSB men’s water polo team as it dropped both games this weekend, first against #9 Long Beach State 11-12 on Saturday in sudden death overtime and then against #2 Stanford on Sunday 5-10. The Gauchos drop to 17-8 overall and 2-3 in Mountain Pacific Sports Federation play.
“We definitely know we can play with these kinds of teams; it’s just a shame we haven’t been able to put together four really strong quarters,” junior utility Chris Gronow said. “We realize where we are and where we’ve got to go and where we have to improve. It’s a good reality check for us.”
On Saturday the 49ers dominated the first quarter of play, scoring four goals to UCSB’s two, but, in the second, Santa Barbara came back with five goals, one of which came from a five-meter shot from senior defender Brian Alexander. The teams battled back and forth until the end of the fourth quarter, when 49er sophomore two-meter Blake Bartak netted a goal to force overtime play.
Neither team was able to put any balls past the goalies in the first three-minute overtime period, and it wasn’t until there was 1:15 to go when Long Beach State junior driver Satoshi Sakata put one into the net on a breakaway to make the score 10-11. The Gauchos answered back within seconds with a goal from Gronow on a power play opportunity to force a sudden death period.
Junior two-meter Brett McCleave scored with 1:13 to go in sudden death to give the 49ers the victory. Both goalies had a high number of saves on account of the numerous shots taken on goal, with Gaucho junior Jon Bonafede having a season-high 21 and Beach junior goalie Thomas Onyshko collecting a career-high 19. Junior driver Ramiro Saldain and McCleave lead all scorers with three goals each.
“We gave them seven goals in the first half and then we scored seven goals, which is a good offensive half for us, but we were really up and down with our awareness and defensive execution,” UCSB Head Coach Joe O’Brien said.
Sunday saw another loss as Stanford dominated UCSB, not allowing a Gaucho goal until the second quarter, when the Gauchos came back to score three goals in a row. Stanford driver and two-time Olympian Tony Azevedo led the Cardinal to victory with a match-high three goals while Gronow contributed two goals in the Gaucho defeat.
“You make little mistakes or come out not prepared – maybe early in the season you can get away with making 15 mistakes and only have four goals go against us, but now it’s probably going to be 10 goals,” O’Brien said. “Every season you have some highs and lows, and sometimes the highs encourage you to work harder but sometimes they don’t. The lows fortunately always encourage you to work harder.”
The Gauchos return to Campus Pool on Saturday to take on #1 UCLA at 2 p.m. before traveling to Irvine on Sunday.