After falling one goal short in each of their two games last weekend, the UCSB men’s water polo team is catching no breaks while surfing the waves of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF,) taking on #11 Loyola Marymount (LMU) today and #3 Stanford Saturday.
The Gauchos (12-14, 0-5 in the MPSF) lost both their weekend conference games by counts of 7-6 to #9 Pacific and #2 Cal. The match against Berkeley was arguably the best Santa Barbara had played all season, competing with #2 team in the country and keeping the score within one for all but one minute of the game.
“The game against Cal was a great game and even though we lost by one, it’s a tremendous confidence booster,” UCSB Head Coach Wolf Wigo said. “This game gives us a great chance to prove that it wasn’t just a fluke and that we are actually playing at a higher level and if we have a great result this Thursday [against LMU] then that will give us tremendous confidence to go up and beat Stanford.”
The Lions recently defeated #10 Davis and #18 Air Force to bump them to 15-14 overall and 7-3 in the Western Water Polo Association. Hungarian native and senior two-meter Endre Rex-Kiss leads the Lions, who defeated the Gauchos earlier this year, with 62 goals.
“It’s going to be a tough game but we’ve been playing better so this will be a great indication of how we’re doing if we can pull out and upset,” Wigo said. “Stanford’s one of the best teams in the country but we feel we match up pretty well with them so hopefully we can do something real positive this weekend,” Wigo said.
Despite its high ranking, Stanford sits in fourth place in the MPSF with a 15-5 overall and 4-2 conference record while losing last weekend to #6 Irvine. Senior drivers Peter Varellas, who is fifth in the MPSF, and Thomas Hopkins led the team with 44 and 40 goals, respectively. Sophomore goalkeeper Sandy Hohener is second in the MPSF in terms of most saves, with 125 in 16 games.
Stanford represents more than just a trip to NorCal, but a return to yesteryears for Wigo, who played for and coached the Cardinal. During his years as a player he received All-American honors for four straight years and helped the Cardinal with the national titles in 1993 and 1994, when he was the senior captain. Despite the years he spent coaching there, helping Stanford to three more titles, he claims no allegiance.
“It’s not different than any other team for me but it’s nice to go back to that pool,” Wigo said.
Today’s sprint is scheduled for 3 p.m. at Campus Pool.