Fans at Campus Pool were treated to a pair of fantastic finishes in #9 UCSB men’s water polo action this weekend, as the team closed out Mountain Pacific Sports Federation play at home.
The Gauchos (15-10 overall, 0-2 in the MPSF) hosted #8 St. Francis and #4 Stanford over the weekend. Santa Barbara defeated St. Francis (17-2) on a goal by sophomore Miles Price, but came up empty-handed against Stanford (11-5, 3-1 MPSF) 10-11 in a grueling match that came down to a sudden death overtime period.
Friday evening, the Gauchos returned home for the first time in over three weeks to take on St. Francis, who was making the trip from New York to play in the second of a three-game West Coast swing. The teams matched each other goal-for-goal until St. Francis scored two goals with 1:05 remaining on the clock, to take a 4-2 lead into the second quarter.
A goal by St. Francis at the 5:59 mark of the second quarter gave the Terriers their biggest lead of the game at 6-3, but it was all UCSB from then on. The turning point in the game came after a powerful stop by junior goalkeeper Rick Wright with 51 seconds remaining. Following a Gaucho timeout, UCSB got another goal from Price with 11 seconds remaining before halftime to tie the score at six.
“[At halftime] We just talked about having the momentum and maintaining it in the second half,” UCSB Head Coach Wolf Wigo said. “I told the guys I thought we were in better condition, so I knew if we went as hard as we could in the first half they would start to get tired.”
The Gauchos got the go-ahead goal in the fourth quarter from sophomore Travis Watts to make the score 9-8, with 4:59 to go, but the Terriers answered on the ensuing possession to tie the game at nine. On a power play with just 2:13 remaining, Price scored his fourth goal of the day to give the Gauchos the lead, and Santa Barbara was able to hold on for the 10-9 win.
“It was just what we wanted,” Wigo said. “To have a good, hard fought game before playing Stanford.”
Sunday afternoon the Gauchos squared off against Stanford in their second official MPSF match of the season. After an even first half, UCSB took control of the game in the third quarter, as a goal by Watts with 1:09 remaining capped off a 3-0 run for the Gauchos to give them a 7-4 lead.
The game changed completely in the fourth as Stanford rallied with three unanswered goals to take an 8-7 lead with 2:18 remaining. Junior driver Coulson Lantz tied the game at 8-8 with just over two minutes remaining, sending the rowdy crowd at Campus Pool into a frenzy. Both goalkeepers came up big in the final two minutes, as neither team was able to seal the game in regulation, sending the game into overtime.
Stanford claimed the lead with the score at 9-8 in the first overtime period, but UCSB tied the game in the second on a penalty shot by Watts with 1:15 remaining. After Stanford put another on the board, junior Matt Dale tied the game at 10 with 22 seconds remaining and forced a sudden death overtime period. Forty-five seconds into the period, Stanford got a shot past Wright to end the game in heartbreaking fashion, leaving the Gauchos with a 10-11 loss.