Two. Two games left in the regular season for the UCSB men’s water polo team. Two chances to end its season on a high note. Two chances to break a four-game losing streak.
The Gauchos, who dropped to 17-10 overall and 2-5 in Mountain Pacific Sports Federation play last week after being defeated by #1 UCLA and Irvine, host Pepperdine on Saturday at Campus Pool.
“Our whole season is going to come down to how well did we play the last weekend of the season; that’s what’s going to be left with us,” UCSB Head Coach Joe O’Brien said. “Obviously, winning more games gives you more confidence going into that last tournament, but the bottom line is if we don’t play well at the end we’re not going to be happy regardless of what our season was.”
Pepperdine sits in the bottom rungs of goalkeeping in the MPSF, with freshman goalie Robbie Miller giving up 177 goals in 23 games. On Thursday the Waves took on LMU and defeated the Lions 7-3 at home.
Pepperdine recently lost to #3 USC 9-6 and earlier to #1 UCLA 7-6, teams that the Gauchos lost to by a wider margin.
“Their ranking means absolutely nothing. I don’t think their ranking means anything to them either,” O’Brien said. “Every chance they get to play against someone else is a chance they get to ruin someone else’s day.”
The Waves boast a deep roster filled with young talent and bring to Santa Barbara their scoring leader in redshirt freshman Grant Miller, who has 41 goals on the season and is tied for ninth in goal scoring in the MPSF.
“They have more freshmen on their roster than we have players on our team. They’re young, they’re talented and they’re playing deep. They play with four or five left-handers at one time.”
Just above Miller is UCSB senior defender Brian Alexander, who sits in eighth place with 53 goals in 27 games and has scored in each of the past 16 matches. Gaucho junior goalie Jon Bonafede ranks first in the MPSF with 227 saves in 22 games.
Santa Barbara struggled last weekend to put defensive and offensive plays into fruition and was held scoreless in two quarters of play by the Bruin and Anteater defenses. Like Pepperdine, UCSB has out-scored its opponents this year in terms of the numbers, with the most Gaucho goals coming in the first quarter of play.
The Gauchos host the Waves at 2 p.m. on Saturday at Campus Pool.