The women’s water polo team garnered a 10th place finish among the top 16 teams in the country this weekend as they hosted the Gaucho Invitational. Santa Barbara went 2-2 on the weekend, missing a ninth place finish by only two goals as fatigue set in against Arizona State – the team’s sixth game in just three days.

“It was our sixth game of the weekend, but that’s not an excuse,” senior utility Jen D’Anna said. “We didn’t have the kind of defense we had in the rest of the tournament.”

Quality defense has been a recurring theme in the team’s play this season, especially in facing ranked opponents in 11 of the 14 games it has played. This weekend goalkeepers, freshman Brittany May and sophomore Rosie Raedelli who shared playing time throughout the tournament, were the deciding factors in Santa Barbara’s success, constantly preventing numerous counterattacks by several strong offensive teams.

“I think Brittany May really stepped up in goal, especially because it’s really her first tournament,” junior center Sarah Kovach said. “We wouldn’t have won without our goalies. I am really glad to have them behind me in the goal.”

Several players on the team said the two keepers stepped up and had their best games of the season during the tournament.

“In both games [we won] they had some awesome saves,” senior attacker Alaina Whitaker said. “UC San Diego and Long Beach State had some counterattack opportunities that they didn’t get because of our goalies’ awesome play.”

After losing 11-6 to #6 Cal on Saturday afternoon, the women defeated #9 UC San Diego 9-8 thanks to four goals by D’Anna and three from sophomore defender Amanda Tipton.

The Gauchos’ second win came on Sunday against #7 Long Beach State, with D’Anna and Whitaker each contributing two goals as they dominated 7-3 in the relatively one-sided match. D’Anna and Whitaker both agreed that the team played well and, other than stifling defense, team cohesiveness was the key to their two wins on the weekend.

Although the Gauchos’ defense has been very effective, their offense has been struggling. Several players, including Kovach and Whitaker, said what UCSB needs to perfect is its patience on offense and its focus during the entire sprint.

“I think the biggest thing is we need more patience,” Whitaker said. “I think we’ll be able to match up better against [Cal] next weekend now that we know that.”

Santa Barbara had a busy weekend playing doubleheaders both Friday and Saturday. Friday, the Gauchos faced two non-conference teams that also played in the tournament. UCSB defeated Brown University 11-6 but fell short to #14 UC Davis 6-5.

To little surprise, #1 USC took first in the tournament beating Stanford 6-5, while UCLA took third. Next weekend, the Gauchos have two home games against Cal – a team that finished fifth this weekend – on Saturday at 3 p.m. and Pacific at noon on Sunday.