Things went well early for the UCSB women’s water polo team in its opening-round game in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Tournament on Thursday. The Gauchos led 4-1 in the first quarter of the preliminary game against #6-seeded UC Irvine. Yet the Gauchos struggled throughout the rest of the game as Irvine held them scoreless until the final period, defeating them 6-5 in the first sprint of the conference tournament.
“We started playing outside ourselves and started making inadvertent changes like making bad passes and taking low-percentage shots,” Head Coach Danielle Altman said. “Opportunities were there, we just couldn’t put them away.”
According to Altman, the team played extremely well in the first period, but things went downhill from there due to mental mistakes on the offensive end and a lack of strength in the two-meter defense. The #11 Gauchos had to cope with an Anteater team that came up with a big rally following problems in the first period, outscoring UCSB 6-1 in the next 17 minutes to take a two-point lead.
Irvine kept the 6-4 lead until the fourth quarter, when the Gauchos capitalized on a penalty situation to cut the advantage to one. However, even with numerous opportunities, Santa Barbara failed to hit the back of the cage and take the sprint to overtime. According to Altman, the defeat had little to do with the strength of Irvine’s team and more to do with her team’s inability to stick to its game plan and play at the level it had all season.
“[UC Irvine] didn’t do anything spectacular, but they just started chipping away,” Altman said. “We limited 10 of their opportunities and they capitalized on six of them.”
Senior utility Jen D’Anna, the leading scorer for the Gauchos in the last two seasons, had two scores on the day, both of which came in the first period.
“Jen D’Anna played a great game,” Altman said. “She got out there on the counter-attack, scored our first two goals of the game, and just got after it and played really well.”
Senior attacker Alaina Whitaker, freshman defender Amanda Tipton and freshman utility Gillian Morgan all had one score apiece.
As a result of the loss, UCSB plays its final game of the season against Cal State Northridge today at 10 a.m., with the winner taking 10th place in the tournament. Altman was optimistic about today’s game, hoping to end the season with a victory and a winning record.
“I think Northridge is going to come out really aggressive, and if we play all four quarters, we can end the season on a win,” Altman said.