The #6 UCSB men’s water polo team (18-12 overall, 3-5 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) ended its regular season on a sour note Sunday with a 9-7 loss to conference foe #7 Pepperdine (26-8 overall, 3-5 MPSF).
Coming off an upset victory over #3 UCLA on Saturday that took a school-record six overtimes, the Waves managed to pull off a comeback victory against UCSB on Sunday. In a back and forth battle, it came down to capitalizing on opportunities and the Waves did so more often than the Gauchos. A large disparity in ejections allowed the Waves to exploit the Gauchos’ six-on-five defense, a key factor in the final outcome.
“It was 16-6 in ejections,” senior driver Ross Sinclair said. “You can’t ever blame the refs, and we’re not. But they had 10 more man-up advantages and were able to put theirs away.”
The Gauchos took advantage of the weary Waves and jumped out to an early lead with a strike from senior two-meter Matt Dale. After Pepperdine scored the next two of the match, UCSB would take a 3-2 lead into halftime with goals from Sinclair and freshman utility Milos Golic.
It was all Waves from there as they would go on to outscore UCSB 7-4 in the second half. Pepperdine came out in the second half on a roll and was sparked immediately by Grant Miller who scored just nine seconds into the third quarter. Miller would go on to score two more goals in the third, giving him a hat trick in one quarter alone. The teams traded goals for the most of the third quarter, with the Gauchos getting their offense from Dale, Golic and sophomore utility Zsombor Vincze. The score was tied on three different occasions during the frame, but Pepperdine would head into the fourth with a 7-6 lead.
The Gauchos managed to even the score at seven early in the fourth quarter with a goal from junior driver Miles Price. Unfortunately for UCSB, that would be the last goal they would score as the Waves shut them out for the remaining 7:25 on the clock. Pepperdine netted two more in the frame to close out the game with a 9-7 win over the Gauchos.
“We played real well,” Sinclair said. “It was a tight game. Everyone is kind of bummed out, but we’ve got USC this weekend.”
Sunday’s result had a big impact on the seedings for the end of the year MPSF tournament. The Gaucho loss and consecutive Waves wins evened out the two squads’ conference records, tying them for sixth place. However, Pepperdine’s head-to-head advantage over UCSB gives them the nod as the sixth seed and drops the Gauchos to seventh.