The #14 UCSB men’s water polo team (12-14 overall, 0-5 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) dropped its games by a score of 7-6 to both #9 Pacific (15-9 overall, 1-3 MPSF) on Saturday and #2 Cal (18-4 overall, 4-1 MPSF) on Sunday.
“Yesterday at the end of the game, we played well but today we were so fired up because the #2 team was here and everyone really gave their best effort,” UCSB Head Coach Wolf Wigo said. “I’m really proud of the team.”
Against Pacific, the Gauchos took their time warming up in the first half, coming out flat and not notching a single goal. Pacific’s first goal of the game came less than a minute into the match, and it tacked on three more before the half was over.
Santa Barbara got on the board in the third with a goal from freshman driver Miles Price, and then UCSB won the fourth quarter sprint and the momentum shifted from there. The Gauchos scored three unanswered goals, one coming off a double power play and another from a steal and a fast break, which gave freshman left-hander Dane Lindstrom a solo shot.
The last two minutes of the match proved to be the most exciting, and Pacific started off with a goal to go up 7-4. Sophomore driver Mat Tilburg scored for the Gauchos with 56 seconds and senior driver Ramiro Saldain followed suit with eight seconds left to put UCSB down just one goal 7-6. Much to the dismay of the vociferous home crowd, the seconds ran down and the Gauchos dropped the game.
“We came out real flat and then UOP went up 3-0 in the first quarter in their first three positions and we were playing catch-up for the rest of the game and that’s what kind of screwed us up,” sophomore goalkeeper Rick Wright said. “Today [against Cal] was a different story.”
The Bears got on the board first on Sunday, but the Gauchos answered with less than a minute left in the first period with Saldain scoring on a fast break. Berkeley got a four-meter shot in the first minute of the second quarter to go up 1-2 but UCSB answered back with a goal from senior driver Bret DeMuth, who had a nice look to put it through.
Cal dominated on the next play, taking its time and getting three shots on goal before junior driver Andrija Vasiljevic put one through. Seconds later the Gauchos had a chance to tie it up after sophomore driver Jeff Tyrrell]] was ejected, giving UCSB a four-meter shot which Saldain successfully put in the cage.
Santa Barbara drew another penalty shot with help from sophomore driver Alex Young and again it was the Simi Valley, Calif., native Saldain who scored, tying the game 5-5. Down 7-5 with less than two minutes to go, Price made good on a power play, putting the Gauchos within one of tying. Cal drained the clock down.
“We were very pleased, we played hard, I don’t think they were expecting this game – we would have liked to have had this game,” freshman driver Travis Watts said. “We realized our opportunities better today, we weren’t afraid to pull the trigger.”
Although UCSB remains winless in conference play, it had one of the best weekends of the year.
“I felt really good,” Wright said. “I think the whole team was working well together, we were playing well the whole game, sticking with them until the very end. We were up on them at the half and then they put away a few crucial goals and came away with it.”
UCSB plays Loyola Marymount at home on Thursday.