The UCSB men’s water polo team snapped a five-game losing streak on Saturday but the memories of close losses came flooding right back the next day, as the Gauchos saw a last-second shot hit the post and the crossbar before settling outside of the goal, preserving a heartbreaking loss to UC Irvine.
The #8 Gauchos (11-7 overall, 0-1 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) got goals from nine different players against #10 Loyola Marymount (5-7), eventually coming away with a 10-7 victory. The scoring effort was much more compacted against the #6 Anteaters (6-3, 1-0) as only three Gauchos scored en route to a 9-8 loss.
UCSB was the better team in the pool for most of the game against UC Irvine, but a second-half surge got the Anteaters back in the game before a goal by freshman driver Brandon Johnson gave them the lead with 25 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.
After two timeouts to set up an attempt at the equalizer, sophomore utility Zsombor Vincze managed to draw a foul with only four seconds left on the clock. Positioned just outside the five-meter mark, Vincze sent a perfect lob towards the far post, but the ball rattled out to the disappointment of a huge crowd at Campus Pool.
“We had a lot of momentum coming into the game and we were up 6-3 at halftime and I thought we were in control of the game,” Head Coach Wolf Wigo said. “We missed a couple of shots right on the goal line at the end, the one at two-meters and then the last shot, too. The play worked, we got a great shot at the end but it just missed.”
A native of Hungary, Vincze led the way for the Gauchos with four goals on the day. Freshman utility Milos Golic scored three times and senior driver Ross Sinclair knocked home a rebound early in the game for his only goal. Golic and Sinclair hooked up for a crucial play late in the fourth quarter to tie the game after the Anteaters had taken their first lead. Following a steal, Sinclair took the ball the length of the pool before hitting a driving Golic, who drew a five-meter penalty. Golic capitalized on the free shot, to tie the game at seven.
Senior two-meter Tim Hutten led the way for Irvine with three goals, while Johnson and seniors Cole Bitter and Colin Mello finished with two goals apiece. The game marked the second straight close game between these two teams, as the Anteaters pulled out an 8-7 win at Irvine earlier in the month. UCSB has now lost five of its last seven games by a single goal margin, with all of the losses coming against teams ranked in the top-10.
“This just shows that all the teams are really even this year,” Wigo said. “Our goal is to qualify for the [conference] tournament but you want to get the best seeding that you can get.”
Freshman two-meter defender Brian Bishop led the way on Saturday with two goals against LMU, as the Gauchos blanked the Lions 3-0 in the fourth quarter to pull out a 10-7 win. Senior goalie Rick Wright outplayed his counterpart at the other end of the pool and finished with six saves.
The Gauchos will play only once in the next two week, with the game coming on Oct. 5, against UC San Diego in La Jolla.