The UCSB women’s water polo team looks to continue its hot start as it plays its first home game of the season Saturday.
Coming off a strong fourth-place finish in last weekend’s UCSD Triton Invitational tournament, the #10 Gauchos (3-1 overall) look to keep rolling as they host their first conference opponent in #18 Irvine (2-2 overall).
Santa Barbara hopes to carry over its stellar offensive play from last weekend, which saw the team score a combined 30 goals, with four players recording hat tricks.
“We definitely have a lot of depth this year and that is a huge strength for us,” Head Coach Danielle Altman said. “It isn’t just offensively; a lot of these girls are multi-taskers in the water.”
Junior utility Alaina Whitaker scored 11 goals in the tournament to lead the scoring effort and earn her co-MPSF Player of the Week honors.
“It means a lot and it’s exciting to see our team getting recognized – it really sets the standard high for the rest of the season,” Whitaker said. “This year we have a lot of depth offensively and I think our defense really keys our offense.” But it was not just the Gauchos that were making headlines offensively. Irvine won two of four games in the UCSD Invitational, most notably a 16-6 thrashing of Bakersfield. The Anteaters’ 16 goals were the most ever scored by UCI in a single game. Against a team with that kind of offensive punch, UCSB’s defense will have to be just as strong as its potent offense.
“We are going to start out tough from the opening whistle,” Altman said. “With Irvine, we are going to look to shut down one or two of their key players and take it from there.”
In addition to it being UCSB’s first home game, Saturday’s game is also the first conference game for both clubs and the Gauchos will want to come out with a strong statement to extend its early season momentum.
“We have been practicing just as hard [as last week],” Altman said. “We would really like to open the conference schedule with a win.”