The #6 UCSB men’s water polo team hopes to improve its seeding for the upcoming Mountain Pacific Sports Federation tournament in a pair of home matches on Sunday.
After defeating conference opponents Long Beach State and UC Irvine over the weekend, the focus for the Gauchos (18-11 overall, 3-3 in the MPSF) has shifted from making the MPSF tournament, which UCSB failed to do last season, to getting into a position to perform well in the tournament. Sunday, the Gauchos will host a double header in which they will play #3 UCLA (11-5, 2-2 MPSF) in a conference match followed by a match against #20 California Baptist (23-10 ).
Last Saturday the Gauchos faced Long Beach in an important conference match held in front of a home crowd at Campus Pool. Behind a strong second half and junior Ross Sinclair’s three goals, UCSB beat the 49ers 9-3.
After the victory, Santa Barbara traveled to Irvine where they faced the Anteaters for the fourth time this season. Once again, the Gauchos dominated the second half, earning a 9-5 victory for their efforts, as well as their third win over Irvine this season. The wins were an important stepping stone in the Gauchos’ postseason hopes, as they practically guaranteed the team a spot in the conference tournament, which kicks off Nov. 24.
UCSB looks for its third conference win in its last four games Sunday afternoon when they host UCLA in the first match of a doubleheader. The game will be crucial in terms of MPSF standings, as the Bruins and Gauchos both have .500 conference records and are tied for fourth place in the conference.
Grabbing the fourth seed in the conference tournament could be crucial for the eventual victor. The team that wins will not have to face powerhouses #1 USC and #2 UC Berkeley, both of which have defeated Santa Barbara this season. In addition to the conference picture, UCLA is also ranked ahead of the Gauchos in the national rankings even though the teams post similar records. A Santa Barbara victory could catapult the Gauchos even higher in the national picture.
In the second game of its doubleheader, UCSB will square off in a nonconference match against California Baptist. It will be the final game of the season for the Lancers, who will play against USC on Saturday. Cal Baptist will not be an easy opponent, as the team has been ranked in the top 20 all season.
The match against UCLA tips off Sunday at 12:00 p.m. followed by the Cal Baptist match at 4:00 p.m. at Campus Pool.
– Cassie Harris