A quick trip south to face a nonconference foe is all that stands in the way of the men’s water polo team and a highly anticipated home opener on Sunday.

The #8 Gauchos (10-6 overall) will head to Malibu on Saturday for one last tune-up before Big West play begins, taking on #10 Loyola Marymount (4-6). Following the trip to the Lion’s den, UCSB returns home in search of revenge against a #6 UC Irvine (4-3) team that was responsible for a heartbreaking loss last Saturday. The Gauchos dropped an 8-7 decision to the Anteaters, extending their losing streak to five games.

Four of the five losses have been by a one-goal margin, but unfortunately for the Gauchos, close only counts with horseshoes or grenades. All five losses have come against top-10 teams in the national rankings, but the road doesn’t get any easier as UCSB now faces a conference schedule that is littered with the nation’s elite.

While the losses have been tough to take, the future definitely looks bright for a team that continues to bring in top-tier recruits. Freshman utility Milos Golic has scored 15 goals and chipped in 12 assists since making his collegiate debut two weeks ago. The native of Serbia continues to get better on the fly, scoring two or more goals in each of his last four games.

The arrival of Golic certainly gave the team a boost, but make no mistake about it, the offense still goes through senior driver and All-American candidate Ross Sinclair. Leading the team with 30 goals, 16 assists, 15 steals and 10 field blocks, Sinclair is affirming his status as one of the nation’s best water polo players, all while he quickly scales UCSB’s career scoring list. The Newport native now stands 12th on the all-time list, with 131 career goals.

In addition to Golic and Sinclair, the Gauchos have relied on a number of other players this season, including junior Miles Price and sophomores Stefan Partelow and Zsombor Vincze. Partelow is second on the team with 21 goals, while Price and Vincze are currently tied for third with 19 goals apiece.

Tomorrow’s game should prove to be very little trouble for the Gauchos, who dismantled LMU earlier this season with a 10-4 victory at the Northern California Open. Golic put home four goals in that match, while senior goalie Rick Wright came up with seven saves. Sunday’s game will present the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation opener for both UCSB and UCI, as the Anteaters come to Santa Barbara with a dominating offensive attack. Senior 2-meter Tim Hutten leads his team and the conference in scoring with 34 goals in only seven games played, with four of those coming last week against the Gauchos.

Tomorrow’s game in Malibu will take place at 3 p.m., while the opening sprint to the ball on Sunday is slated for noon at Campus Pool.