It was a weekend of downs and ups for the UCSB women’s water polo team. After dropping its final Mountain Pacific Sports Federation game of the season to #1 USC on Friday 16-9, the Gauchos returned home to host a mini tournament, taking all three games they played.
In what has become typical fashion this year, UCSB let the opponent take a big lead early on. The Trojans (24-0 overall) got off to a hot start putting away four goals in each of the first two quarters. Santa Barbara could only answer with three in the first half, giving USC an 8-3 halftime lead.
Although the Gauchos fought their way back into the game, scoring six goals over the final two periods, USC was too hot to handle, matching its first half output with another eight goals after halftime. Despite senior utility Jen D’Anna’s four goals, the Trojan lead was too big to overcome for the Gauchos.
All-American two-meters freshman Kami Craig and senior Moriah Van Norman combined for seven goals in the game to lead USC. The Trojans also spread the ball around, getting goals from eight other players.
Saturday, the Gauchos returned to the pool, hosting the UCSB Mini Tournament featuring Cal State Monterey Bay, Cal State San Bernardino, Pomona College and Chapman University. Santa Barbara outscored its three opponents 44-11, downing Pomona 13-2, Chapman 16-4 and San Bernardino 15-5.
Although the Sagehens held UCSB scoreless in the second quarter of its first match of the day, the Gaucho defense responded with three quarters of shutout polo. Pomona only found the back of the net twice, while Santa Barbara got multiple-goal games from D’Anna, senior attacker Alaina Whitaker and sophomore attacker Lindsay Knott to coast to the victory.
D’Anna, junior utility ZiZi Clark and senior attacker Annie Kiening helped build a 9-1 Santa Barbara lead over Chapman at halftime. Sophomore two-meter Caetlan MacLean scored the Panthers’ lone goal in the first half. The Gauchos continued to romp, adding three more in the third and four goals – two from Kiening – in the fourth. The Gaucho defense came out on top again, holding the Panthers scoreless in the first quarter and allowing just four goals for the match.
Santa Barbara saw a familiar foe in its final game of the tournament in San Bernardino, a team it defeated 12-4 during the first month of the season. The Gauchos got off to a slower start than in the two previous games, leading just 4-2 at the half. However, UCSB again proved its prowess as a second half team, putting away 11 goals over the final two quarters. The Coyotes could only muster three goals in the fourth, handing the Gauchos the 15-5 win.
The trio of seniors – Kiening, D’Anna and Whitaker – led the way for UCSB in the final home games of their Gaucho careers. Over the three games, the senior triumvirate combined for 20 goals and helped give UCSB a three-game winning streak heading into this weekend’s MPSF Tournament in Irvine.