The UCSB men’s water polo team is swimming with the great white sharks of collegiate water polo teams this weekend, taking on #4 UCLA and #1 USC for some heated conference play.
Santa Barbara (9-10 overall, 0-1 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF)) is coming off a tough weekend in Northern California, where they placed 13th in Berkeley’s NorCal Open, which included an 8-3 loss to the Bruins.
“It was a pretty good [weekend], it wasn’t great. We had two really close games we could have won, but they were both against teams that were ranked ahead of us; it would have been a surprise if we had won,” UCSB Head Coach Wolf Wigo said. “We had a good game against [UCLA]. The score really wasn’t indicative about how close it was; they had to earn every goal and if we have a great day, then we can beat them.”
Although the Gauchos have outscored their opponents 141-133, they have dropped six of their last 11 games, with losses against MPSF opponents Stanford, Pepperdine and Irvine, all of whom are ranked above UCSB.
Freshman driver Miles Price had a successful weekend in the tournament, contributing five goals, including two in the 5-6 loss to Davis. Sophomore driver Coulson Lantz and sophomore left-hander Robbie Bauer tacked on two goals each to continue their reign of Gaucho goals with 24 and 21, respectively.
UCLA (13-4, 1-0 MPSF) finished fourth last weekend, losing to #2 Cal and then #4 Stanford on the final day of the tournament, but boast a 3-0 undefeated streak at home. The Bruins have not lost to the Gauchos since 1992 and have won 25 consecutive matches over UCSB. Similarly, USC (13-1) holds a 25-game consecutive victory streak over the Gauchos and took first-place honors at the NorCal Open.
“We’re working on some UCLA stuff and will probably focus on the UCLA game because that’s first, so we’re simulating some of the things that they do effectively to be prepared for it,” Wigo said. “[USC is] the #1 team in the country, so we’re expecting the highest level of water polo that there is right now collegiately and usually there’s a tendency to rise to that occasion and have a great game.”
Though UCSB sophomore goalie Rick Wright has seen the most time in goal and is averaging 7.1 saves per game, sophomore James Street and senior Jon Bonafede could also get some time in goal for the Gauchos.
Both games begin at1 p.m. Sunday’s game will be at Campus Pool.