The #12 UCSB women’s water polo team showed great strength and power last weekend, as they finished third overall at the ASU Invitational behind first-place #11 Arizona State and second-place #5 San Diego State. The Gauchos defeated #18 Michigan 9-7 to secure third place and also knocked off Division III Redlands 9-7, but lost to Arizona State (9-10 overall, 2-5 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) 12-6 and San Diego State (21-6 overall, 5-2 MPSF) 7-6.
“It felt good. We played really good games, and the team played very well,” Head Coach Danielle Altman said. “We put a lot of our focus on counterattacks. We improved significantly, but we still need to improve on our defense. Overall, I’m very proud.”
The Gauchos (13-12 overall, 2-6 MPSF) kicked off the tournament with a win against Redlands. UCSB scored within 30 seconds of the start of play with a goal from sophomore utility Gillian Morgan. The Bulldogs responded with a 2-0 run to bring the score to 3-1. The Gauchos managed to score another goal at the 2:38 mark when senior defender Aimee Stachowski netted one to make it 3-2.
Redlands extended their lead in the second quarter when they scored at the 2:44 mark. However, Santa Barbara went on a 2-0 run when Stachowski scored again on a 5-meter penalty shot and senior utility Zizi Clark scored with eight seconds left on the clock to tie the game. Stachowski completed a hat trick when she scored her final goal in the third quarter to give the Gauchos the lead.
Senior center Sarah Kovach netted one to bring the score 6-5. The Bulldogs managed to score with four seconds left in the quarter to break even. The Gauchos clinched the win when they went on to score three goals, two from Morgan, who also completed a hat trick, and one from freshman utility Christine Clark.
Coming off a 7-6 victory over the Sun Devils on March 30, the Gauchos were ready to secure another win against Arizona State, but fell short. UCSB showed a strong front as sophomore defender Amanda Tipton scored 1:13 into the match and Morgan also netted a goal to give the Gauchos a 2-0 lead, but the Sun Devils managed two goals to tie the game. ASU dominated the second quarter with four unanswered goals to take a 6-2 lead.
UCSB did not stop fighting and earned goals from Stachowski and senior attacker Allie Carkin in the third quarter. The Sun Devils scored three additional goals in the third to bring the score 10-4. Stachowski scored again in the fourth and senior attacker Teale Walheim also scored a 5-meter penalty shot to make the score 10-6. ASU netted two more goals to end the game 12-6.
“That was outstanding. The team was really focused on Friday, the most I’ve seen them all year,” Altman said. “They really wanted to win this conference game [against ASU], and we did. It was the best game my team played all year. It was phenomenal. On Saturday, we were focused and ready, but it just didn’t fall through for us. Our counterattacks were on and it was an overall good game.”
The Gauchos found sweet victory in the finale, as they defeated Michigan to take third place. It was a cat and mouse game as UCSB and Michigan went back-to-back for several goals. Freshman center Lizzie Rouleau scored with 2:45 remaining in the first quarter and sophomore defender Kaitlin Kubas also netted one for the Gauchos with eight seconds left to give Santa Barbara a 2-0 lead.
Michigan responded with two back-to-back goals, but Stachowski scored on a power play to bring the score to 3-2. Tipton and Clark scored two additional goals, which were answered back as Michigan scored two to make the score 5-4. Tipton scored again, along with Michigan to finish the third quarter 6-5. Tipton completed a hat trick when she scored her third goal and a goal from Morgan gave UCSB an 8-6 lead. Michigan fought right back and scored in the fourth with 5:52 left in the game to make it 8-7, but the Gauchos claimed the victory when junior attacker Lindsay Knott scored her first goal at the 4:54 mark to make the final score 9-7.