The #8 UCSB men’s water polo team will face some stiff competition this weekend when it heads to the SoCal Tournament in Los Angeles.
The field for the SoCal Tournament is daunting, as every team playing is ranked in the top 20 nationally, including every team in the top eight. In addition, all nine Mountain Pacific Sports Federation teams will be in action, so this tournament could be a measuring stick for the team’s progress thus far. This tournament will also be great preparation for the coming weeks for the Gauchos (13-6 overall, 0-1 in the MPSF) since, after a match against St. Francis College next Friday, they will have played six straight conference games.
For this weekend’s tournament, the Gauchos will travel to the University of Southern California for the second time in as many weeks. UCSB was in Los Angeles last week, where it lost a conference match against the Trojans, the nation’s top-ranked team. Santa Barbara will get a chance to avenge its loss when it takes on USC again Saturday afternoon following a match with #11 Irvine.
Last Friday, though the Gauchos were able to keep the game close in the first half, USC proved to be too much for UCSB to handle in the second and the Trojans came out on top 15-8.
Last week the Gauchos defeated Pepperdine for the third time this season, a difficult feat for any team considering the adjustments an opponent will make following a loss. UCSB will try to repeat its success as it goes up against Irvine on Saturday morning, a team it has already defeated twice. Most recently, the Gauchos defeated Irvine quite handily 10-6 at Campus Pool on Sept. 30. Despite facing Pepperdine and Irvine so many times this early in the season, the two teams have yet to face off in a conference match.
In order to pull off the upset, Santa Barbara will have to cut down on the defensive mistakes made last week against USC’s relentless counterattack. During the match, the Gauchos learned that they could stay within striking distance of the Trojans, as UCSB had the score at 6-5 late in the second period. Though USC kicked it into a higher gear offensively in the third and eventually came out on top, UCSB put up stiff resistance and can remain confident heading into the rematch.
That confidence will be important since USC enters this tournament with several advantages. Not only is the tournament in their home pools, but the Trojans also enter this event as the defending champions. In addition, at 30 straight games USC is riding the longest winning streak in the program’s history
– Cassie Harris