After a weekend of tension filled games, the #7 UCSB men’s water polo team finished just about where they started, taking home eighth place in the NorCal Open.
The Gauchos (10-4 overall) overcame a two-goal deficit to tie #9 Long Beach State (6-2) at nine all, late in Sunday’s seventh-place game. However, in the games waning moments, 49ers senior Travis Buchanan scored the clincher, sending UCSB to its third consecutive loss. Senior driver Ross Sinclair led the Gauchos with three goals, and freshman utility Milos Golic capped off a successful opening weekend of his college career with two goals of his own.
Santa Barbara found itself in the seventh-place game after losing a hard-fought contest to #6 Pepperdine (11-2). The Gauchos overcame a three-goal halftime deficit to cut the lead to one, but they never found the equalizer, eventually losing 13-12. Sinclair and junior driver Miles Price led the Gaucho attack with three goals apiece and senior goalkeeper Rick Wright kept UCSB in the game with 10 saves.
Friday’s opening day of the tournament was an up and down one for the Gauchos, as they found themselves in the winners’ bracket only to lose their second-round game to tournament host and eventual runner-up #2 Cal (9-1). The teams were tied at the half, but the Bears pulled away in the second half, eventually winning 10-5. UCSB earned the shot at the hometown team after opening the tournament with a 10-4 victory over #11 Loyola Marymount (4-6). Sinclair and junior driver Mark Knudtsen led the Gaucho effort against Cal with two goals each and Golic put home four goals against LMU.
Prior to the tournament, UCSB made a stop at UC Davis where the Gauchos came away with a 9-6 victory over the #8 Aggies (6-4). Six different Gauchos scored, led as usual by Sinclair who finished with three goals.
Now in the third season under Head Coach Wolf Wigo, big things are expected from the Gauchos, who won over 20 games last season for the first time since 1990. UCSB finished fifth in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation last season with an overall record of 21-14 and a league mark of 3-5. All of this was done without a single senior on the roster, leading to increased expectations for this season’s squad.
UCSB will be back in action today with a game at #5 UC Irvine (3-2), followed by the Long Beach Mini Tournament on Saturday. The Gauchos will play at home for the first time this Sunday when they participate in the annual Alumni Game at 12 p.m. at Campus Pool.