The UCSB men’s water polo team played seven periods of dominant water polo over the weekend, but it’s the one frame they did not that cost them the weekend sweep. The #8 Gauchos (17-9 overall, 1-2 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) took down #13 Pacific (14]- 14 overall, 0-3 MPSF) 10-5 on Friday in an overpowering performance, but a slow start against #1 USC led to a 14-10 Saturday defeat.
UCSB got on the board early and often against the Tigers on Friday by scoring four first period goals. The Gauchos targeted sophomore 2-meter Jesse Tootell in front of the net in the shallow end and capitalized just 22 seconds into the contest. UCSB never looked back and added three more unanswered strikes before Pacific got two late first period goals. Senior driver Ross Sinclair scored a team high three goals while seven other Gauchos managed single tallies in the victory. Senior Goalie Rick Wright stood tall in net posting eleven saves.
Unfortunately for UCSB, Saturday’s start against the Trojans (13-0 overall, 4-0 MPSF) looked nothing like Friday’s early outburst. The Gauchos stumbled out of the gate, falling to a 7-2 deficit early in the second period. However, UCSB rose to the occasion for the rest of the match, looking every bit the Trojans’ equal for most of the game.
“We played for two and a half quarters at a higher level than the number one team in the nation,” Sinclair said. “So it shows that we can play with the best. Everyone’s aware of that.”
The intensity rose early in the second half as the Gauchos attempted to even the score behind a balanced defensive and offensive effort, with brilliant shot performances by sophomore utility Zsombor Vincze and freshman utility Milos Golic. The closest the Gauchos would get to USC was when they drew within three in the third frame. Vincze recorded all three of his goals during the third period comeback, while Golic sprinkled his four throughout the contest. The spirited Gaucho comeback performance would fall short as USC put the game away 14-10.
“If we play how we did for two and a half quarters, there shouldn’t be anyone that can take us,” Sinclair said. “Every position we are deep. Hopefully we can put it together for four quarters and then we’re looking good.”
The Gauchos will get that chance next weekend against another opponent that looks down on UCSB in the standings. The Gauchos will look to put together a high-level four quarter performance in their upcoming match against #2 Stanford this Saturday at noon in Palo Alto.