The #6 UCSB men’s water polo team broke even after yesterday’s doubleheader at Campus Pool, but despite losing the early game to #3 UCLA and rebounding later in the evening to defeat #20 California Baptist, it inched another step closer to a playoff berth.
Although the Gauchos (19-12 overall, 3-4 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) lost another tough conference home game in overtime, falling to the Bruins (13-5, 4-2 in the MPSF) 7-6, they were able to bounce back to defeat California Baptist (23-12) 12-7 later in the day.
“These games are giving [the team] an unbelievable amount of experience,” Head Coach Wolf Wigo said. “Hopefully, with the experience behind us next season or later this season, we will be able to start winning these kinds of games.”
Sunday’s early match against UCLA was played aggressively from the defensive end early on, with both teams playing a scoreless first quarter. The Bruins scored the first goal with 6:28 remaining in the second quarter, but UCSB quickly tied the game less than a minute later on a goal by freshman driver Stefan Partelow that bounced off the goal post before finding the net. UCLA answered back with two more goals before sophomore driver Miles Price brought the Gauchos back to within one, ending the half with a 3-2 score in favor of the Bruins.
UCLA took a 4-2 lead midway through the third quarter, but UCSB answered 30 seconds later behind junior driver Coulson Lantz. In the final minute of the quarter, UCLA took a quick two-goal lead, but sophomore driver Travis Watts kept Santa Barbara within one after a goal in the last 15 seconds of the third quarter. In the fourth, freshman utility Zsombor Vincze tied the game at 5-5 with 4:51 remaining, igniting the large turnout at Campus Pool. The Bruins quickly went ahead 6-5 with 3:51 left, but UCSB once again tied it at six all at the 1:21 mark. Both teams stepped up their defense in the time remaining, and junior goalkeeper Rick Wright was stellar for UCSB, getting save after save as the game went into overtime. UCLA scored what turned out to be the game winner with 1:15 to go in the first overtime period, leaving the Gauchos with a hard-fought 7-6 loss. Wright ended the day with 19 saves, bringing his season total to 206.
“It was two good teams playing a great game,” Wigo said. “I thought [Wright] played extremely well. We got it to overtime and they just happened to score before we did.”
In the second match of the day, the Gauchos faced California Baptist in a nonconference bout. Fatigue may have played a role early on for UCSB since it trailed 5-3 after the first quarter of play. Santa Barbara finally heated up in the second, scoring three unanswered goals to take a 7-6 lead into halftime. The second half was all Gauchos as they outscored the Lancers 5-1 en route to a 12-7 win. Vincze recorded a match-high three goals while six other Gauchos were also able to find the scoreboard.
Santa Barbara will now focus on next weekend’s final regular season game against Pepperdine at 12 p.m. at Campus Pool before preparing for the MPSF tournament, which is less than two weeks away.