The #12 UCSB women’s water polo team started out strong in its first preseason games of 2007, playing matches against Cal Baptist and #15 Hartwick at the Cal Baptist Mini Tournament on Saturday. The Gauchos won 9-8 against Cal Baptist, and although they lost 6-5 to Hartwick they consistently fought back and showed promise for their upcoming season.

“I think we subtly improved throughout the weekend even though the second game we ended up with a loss. We played a little more solid and better as a team,” Head Coach Danielle Altman said. “It’s preseason and we are just getting to know each other. Overall, I think it was a success how we fought back, despite being down and got back in the game.”

The Gauchos grabbed a 4-1 lead against Cal Baptist in the first period before the Lancers then came back to take a two-goal lead in the fourth period with 7:23 left on the clock, bringing the score to 8-6. However, UCSB came from behind to pull out the win as the Gauchos went on a 3-0 run to claim Santa Barbara’s only victory of the day. The comeback was started by senior center Sarah Kovach, who netted a game-high four goals, lifting the Gauchos to within one point. Senior defender Aimee Stachowski and freshman Christine Clark then scored back-to-back goals to secure a win for the Gauchos.

After the Lancer game, the Gauchos competed with Hartwick, but could not come up with a victory. After trailing throughout the game, UCSB cut Hartwick’s lead to 6-5 with 2:15 left in the fourth period. The Gauchos could have tied the game, but Hartwick defender Marina Zablith stole the ball from the Gauchos with seven seconds left to play and was able to keep it to secure the victory for Hartwick. Senior utility Zizi Clark led the Gaucho offense with two goals. Despite the loss, Altman said she was impressed with the overall effort the team showed, but still wants to improve certain aspects for next week’s game.

“We want to improve our individual defense and team defense and start putting things together on the offensive side of the pool,” Altman said. “We’re going to get in and continue to work as team. We did a good job shooting the ball and showing our strength, and we will continue to do that for future games.”

The Gauchos will travel to San Diego for their next match at 10:15 a.m. Saturday at the UC San Diego Invitational where they will take on Santa Clara.