The UCSB women’s water polo team wrapped up its season by finishing 12th in the end-of-the-year Mountain Pacific Sports Federation tournament.
After dropping their first round match to Hawaii on Thursday, the Gauchos beat UOP 10-7 on Friday before dropping their last two games to Irvine on Saturday and Long Beach State on Sunday.
The 12th-seeded Gauchos fell behind by two heading into halftime against Pacific, but came out on fire in the second half by scoring eight second-half goals in the win. Senior attacker co-captain Lindsay Knott and junior utility Gillian Morgan led the outburst with three goals apiece. Senior co-captain goalie Jenny Gonzales posted seven saves in the victory.
UCSB got out to a slow start once again in their third-round match against Irvine, falling behind 5-2 after one quarter of play. However, the Gauchos fought their way back into the game by playing lockdown defense as the Anteaters were unable to score in the second and third quarters. The Gauchos pulled within one of Irvine heading into the fourth, but the Anteaters found their stride in the fourth and pulled away for the 8-5 win. Once again, Knott paced the Gaucho scoring with two goals.
Their 1-2 start to the tournament left the Gauchos with a chance to take on 10th-ranked Long Beach State for 11th place in the competition. UCSB played the 49ers evenly through the first three quarters of the game, jumping out to a two-goal lead to start the match and outscoring the 49ers 3-2 in the third frame. However, just like the Irvine game, the Gauchos were outplayed in the fourth quarter and fell to Long Beach 8-6. Knott and Morgan both scored a pair of goals in the season finale, while Gonzales stopped nine 49er shots, giving her 31 saves in the tournament.
“We played well and surprised ourselves from time to time,” Knott said. “We kept up with Hawaii, and we came back against Irvine and held them scoreless for two quarters.”
While a quick glance at the record would tell one story about this season for Gaucho water polo, the team deserves recognition for the heart it showed throughout a chaotic year. A squad with only four upperclassmen is expected to undergo a year or two of learning and development, and for what it’s worth, that’s what this season was… not to mention a coaching change mid-season and coming back from a 16-game losing streak to play some of its best water polo of the season when it could have easily packed it in.
“Next year is looking good, with how we dealt with adversity this year,” Knott said. “It was a rollercoaster year. A lot happened that was out of our control, but we did everything in our control to overcome that.”