The #14 UCSB men’s water polo team had three extra reasons to party this Halloween weekend – beating unranked and non-conference teams Cal Baptist and Chapman 11-5, 16-4, respectively, while knocking off Occidental 13-3.
“The score was pretty high but a lot of times the games are close at the beginning and for us it wasn’t. We came out hard and put them down,” UCSB Head Coach Wolf Wigo said. “We were ahead of these teams like 9-1 and then we could sub and work on defenses and all that stuff. It was a very positive weekend, it’s just what we needed because next weekend is really going to be a challenge.”
The Gauchos started their weekend early Friday afternoon with eight different players scoring in the 11-5 victory, with senior driver Bret DeMuth, sophomore driver Coulson Lantz and sophomore driver Matt Tilburg all contributing two goals. Santa Barbara had a 3-2 lead at the half and built that to 6-2 in the third period before tallying five goals to the Lancers’ three in the fourth for the win.
“It was a great weekend because everyone played well in all the games,” Wigo said. “Against Cal Baptist, it was an excellent game. After they played us they went up and beat #17 Santa Clara, so even though they’re a serious team, not top-20, they’ve beaten top-20 teams.”
UCSB went on a scoring rampage bright and early Sunday morning against Chapman, scoring four goals in the last two minutes of the first period. Sophomore goalie James Street – who got the start in goal – and the Gaucho defense held the Panthers to one goal in the first half to take an 11-2 lead into the break.
Chapman was able to string three goals together in the second half, but it was insufficient against Santa Barbara, which scored an extra five to secure the victory. Freshman left-hander Danny Natalizo was one of the 10 Gauchos to score and paced them with a game-high three goals.
“We ran some plays really effectively that we’ve been trying to get down,” senior goalkeeper Jon Bonafede said. “During these two games, we really worked on it and accomplished it and hopefully that’ll carry over when we play higher-ranked teams and league games, games that count.”
Later that afternoon Santa Barbara took on Occidental for the second game of the doubleheader and again took an early lead, going up 6-1 at the first period mark and then tacking on four more for a 10-2 halftime lead. UCSB scored two goals in the third and one goal in the fourth to take the game 13-3. Tilburg and freshman driver Travis Watts led the Gauchos scoring two goals each.
“Most of our goals were from the counter; we hit our spots on the counter,” DeMuth said. “We were must faster than this [Occidental] team. It was good practice before our two really big games next weekend. They were fun games.”
Street and sophomore goalkeeper Rick Wright split time in goal with Bonafede, who played in his first game this season. Both Wright and Bonafede stepped out of the goalie position to play for UCSB and score their first goals of the season.
“It feels great to be back in the goal. We were just having fun, keeping the spirits high and just moving along,” Bonafede said. “We’ve got a really tough week practice coming up and sometimes it’s fun just to enjoy water polo.”
The Gauchos return to conference play next weekend.