After sailing the friendly seas of nonconference competition last weekend, the #14 UCSB men’s water polo team is returning to the blank waters of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MSPF) taking on #9 Pacific on Saturday and #2 Cal on Sunday.
The Gauchos improved their overall record Halloween weekend (12-12 overall, 0-3 in the MPSF) noting three wins over the unranked and nonconference targets of Cal Baptist, Chapman and Occidental.
“We could have played bad and beat the second two teams we played but the first team went up and beat the #2 ranked so they were good and we played great against them,” UCSB Head Coach Wolf Wigo said. “With the other two games, we won in a way that we were very happy with – we came out and dominated and then relaxed in the second half. It was very positive, a good confidence builder to carry into Saturday.”
First up for Santa Barbara is Pacific, who, like the Gauchos, carries the scarlet letter ranking of 0-3 in conference play and beat Cal Baptist last weekend. The Tigers also emerged undefeated last weekend going 4-0 at the Aggie Shootout.
Croatian sophomore utility Dragan Bakic led the way over the weekend with 18 goals followed closely by junior captain center forward Clint McLaughlin who notched a grand total of 13. Pacific sits in the dregs of MPSF goal posts ranking last in league with 188 saves to 187 goals against.
“We’re really excited for this weekend, UOP should be a very good game – we’re hoping to win that game,” Wigo said. “They’re ranked ninth in the country so they’re the favorites but hopefully we’ll have a good crowd, home-court advantage, and we’d like to pull off a win there.”
Sitting in the upper echelon of men’s water polo are the Bears, who are set for a rematch on Saturday with #5 Pepperdine who defeated Cal at home last weekend 8-6. The Bears have scored an impressive 214 goals to their opponents’ 112, with 41 of those tallies coming from junior center John Mann, good for fourth in the league.
“The Cal game is going to be very difficult. They’re a very talented team,” Wigo said. “They seem up and down a little but if they’re up, they’re a killing team and if they’re down they’re winning by a few but we hope to have a good game against them.”
The Gauchos are planning a balanced attack, as they have this season, using both the strong underclassmen and the experienced veterans to score. Leading the way for Santa Barbara are sophomore driver Coulson Lantz with 29 and sophomore left-hander Robbie Bauer with 23. Although UCSB’s starting goalie is sophomore Rick Wright, both sophomore James Street and senior Jon Bonafede could see time between the posts. All of them played well over the weekend.
The sprint for both games is slated for 1 p.m. at Campus Pool.