After coming off from a strong performance at the UCSD’s Triton Invitational, the #16 UCSB women’s water polo team will host its first home opener of the season this Saturday against #7 UC Irvine at 11 and against Cal State San at 4pm at Campus Pool.

The Gauchos (4-2 overall) won three of four games at the Triton Invitational and plan to carry the momentum into this week’s matchups.

“I’m very excited to have our first home opener. We gathered a lot of momentum from the weekend and it will show this week,” Head Coach Danielle Altman said. “I feel very confident we can win. Our conference is the toughest in the nation, but every game is within reach and we are a good team.”

The Gauchos will have to carry their strength this week against Irvine (5-1), who also dominated at the Triton Invitational, winning three of four games and placing third overall. The Anteaters defeated #9 Davis (8-2), #14 Hartwick (6-7) and #19 Cal State Bakersfield (2-3), but lost to #11 Loyola Marymount (5-1). The Coyotes also are coming off of a win, as they defeated Claremont 14-7. This should amplify the energy of all three teams, which will make this a very intense and exciting home meet.

“I think playing at home will give us an advantage. The girls will be rested and there will be people in the crowd cheering for us. We are going to do what works for us and keep working on our defense,” Altman said. “We have a strong senior class and the freshmen are doing a great job. I have high expectations for this game.”

The Gauchos team proved that it is a worthy opponent by defeating #12 Santa Clara (5-3), Hartwick, and #13 Michigan (5-3) last week. Hartwick’s victory was the biggest highlight of the night for the Gauchos, as they lost to them two weeks ago at the Cal Baptist Invitational by one point. This time around, the Gauchos took control of the match and defeated Hartwick 12-6, with enormous help by sophomore defender Amanda Tipton, who had a game-high three goals against Hartwick.

“We were so motivated to prove ourselves and show them we are a better team. It felt good,” senior center Sarah Kovach said. “It was exciting. We proved everyone who didn’t think we could beat them wrong.”

The Gauchos also showed their power against the Aztecs, although they lost 7-8. Santa Barbara fought until the very end, proving that it will not go down quietly and will continue to fight to secure a win. Kovach scored three goals, senior defender Aimee Stachowski scored two, junior attacker Lindsay Knott and sophomore defender Kaitlin Kubas scored one each for the Gauchos.