And you thought your Spring Break was wild.
The UCSB women’s water polo team (12-7 overall, 3-3 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) endured a raucous Spring Break of its own as it went up north to play four games in four days – going 2-2 with each game being decided by a single goal.
“It’s hard to be on the road,” Head Coach Danielle Altman said. “We played four different teams and it’s definitely a challenge to prepare for each game with the little time off between games.”
UCSB voyaged to Santa Clara on Wednesday to play its first game in over two weeks. The two teams played evenly through nearly all four quarters in a game that saw seven lead changes and seven ties. With 5:54 remaining, Santa Clara’s Andrea Evans scored to even the game 8-8. Seconds later, sophomore ZiZi Clark converted a six-on-five opportunity to give the Gauchos the eventual game-winner and their fourth straight win.
After Wednesday’s dramatic finish, the Gauchos headed to Palo Alto, Calif. to take on #3 Stanford. After a scoreless first quarter, Stanford came out hot in the second, taking a commanding 4-1 lead into halftime.
Santa Barbara was able to turn it around in the second half after Stanford increased its lead to 5-1 early in the third. Goals by junior Jennifer D’Anna and Alaina Whitaker and key saves by Christy Medigovich pulled the Gauchos to within two goals as they entered the fourth quarter. After the teams traded goals early in the fourth, D’Anna scored with less than a minute remaining to pull UCSB to within a goal, but neither team scored again. Despite the gutsy effort to come back, the Gauchos came away with a 5-6 loss.
“We were all impressed with the way we played against Stanford, even though we lost,” Whitaker said. “Stanford is one of the best counter-attacking teams and the fact that we were able to stay close with them showed us that we can play with any team no matter where they are ranked.”
The hangover from Thursday’s tough loss may have carried over to Friday night’s non-conference matchup against Davis. The Gauchos found themselves in another close game, and it would take overtime to settle the score. The Aggies managed to score with 51 seconds remaining, handing UCSB its second straight heartbreaking loss.
“[After the Stanford game] I don’t think we were as rested as we could have been against Davis and I think fatigue was definitely an issue,” Altman said.
Friday marked the final game of the trip for UCSB against conference rival San Jose State. The Gauchos had a 6-2 lead in the second quarter, but the Spartans were able to come back, eventually forcing overtime. San Jose continued its rally in the first overtime period, taking a 9-8 lead over UCSB, but Aimee Stachowski notched her fifth goal of the game with 32 seconds remaining, tying the game at 9-9. The teams went into a second overtime, and with 56 seconds remaining, D’Anna scored and put the Gauchos on top, 10-9. It would take a clutch save by Medigovich for UCSB to escape with a win.
“With all the water polo teams so evenly matched, you are definitely going to see a lot of close games,” Altman said. “But it is good to experience these close games and be able to know that we can win those games.”