The best women’s water polo players in the country were in Santa Barbara this weekend to participate in the Daktronics Gaucho Invitational.
UCSB (7-5 overall, 1-2 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) went 3-2 on the weekend to finish the tournament in sixth place, while top-ranked UCLA continued its undefeated season by going 5-0 to win the tournament championship.
The #8 Gauchos won their first two games before running into #2 USC on Saturday. The Trojans won the game 11-4 en route to advancing to the championship game, where they lost to UCLA in overtime.
“I’m very happy because we gutted out some awesome wins,” UCSB Head Coach Danielle Altman said. “My team’s playing tough right now – really tough.”
Santa Barbara defeated Marist College and #10 San Diego State on Friday 17-6 and 10-9, respectively. Junior goalie Christy Medigovich recorded 17 saves against San Diego State to keep the Aztecs from scoring in overtime.
After losing to USC, the Gauchos defeated #12 San Jose State 6-5 behind three goals from junior Jennifer D’Anna, who scored a team-high nine goals on the weekend.
The Gauchos took an early 6-0 lead against Marist and never looked back, eventually stretching the lead to 12 before Marist scored four fourth-quarter goals against UCSB’s reserves. Twelve different players scored goals for the Gauchos against Marist, and 15 Gauchos scored for UCSB over the course of the tournament.
The Gauchos advanced to Sunday’s fifth-place game, where they faced #9 Hawaii. The closely contested game was tied at nine at the end of regulation. Hawaii scored two goals in the first overtime and withstood a late UCSB charge to win the game 11-10. Junior Alaina Whitaker led the Gaucho scorers with three goals.
“Hawaii’s a great team, but we had a lot of missed opportunities,” Altman said. “We have to start capitalizing on our opportunities and minimizing the errors.”
The tournament’s championship game lived up to its billing, with rivals UCLA and USC going into overtime to determine a winner. The Bruins scored four consecutive goals in overtime to come away with a 10-6 victory. Kristina Kunkel – UCSB senior 2-meter defender Katy Kunkel’s sister – Kelly Rulon and Thalia Munro scored two goals each for UCLA, and goalie Emily Feher had 13 saves, including a game-saving block as the fourth quarter expired.
The tournament featured the top 16 teams in the country, as well as the top-ranked teams in Divisions II and III. Third-ranked Stanford defeated #4 Long Beach State 5-3 in the tournament’s third-place game. Loyola Marymount, San Jose State, Cal and Indiana rounded out the top 10.
“This is the top tournament of the year outside of the NCAAs,” Altman said. “It’s as elite as women’s water polo gets.”