“We haven’t heard anything about [Iona College] really,” said senior driver Dane Lindstrom. “They’re another East Coast team, and though we don’t take anyone lightly, in the world of water polo, East Coast teams don’t tend to be very strong.”
In a game that epitomized “walking the walk,” the #9 UCSB men’s water polo team strolled to a 16-2 blowout victory over the visiting Iona College Gaels on Tuesday at Campus Pool.
From the first minute to the final whistle, the Gauchos (9-4) never took a foot off the pedal. In only its second home game of the 2008-09 season, Santa Barbara thrilled the hometown crowd with four quick goals in the first period, two of them compliments of sophomore utility Milos Golic. Golic, who stretched his scoring streak to 16 games and recorded his 10th multi-goal game this year, was used sparingly in a UCSB offense that on this day hardly needed him. No fewer than 12 Gauchos scored against Iona (8-13), four of them netting at least two.
Senior two-meter defender Michael Machado struck twice in the second period to widen Santa Barbara’s already substantial lead to six goals, only to be followed by contributions from Lindstrom and sophomore two-meter defender Brian Bishop. UCSB was prepared to go into halftime having played 16 minutes of scoreless water polo, but with 11 seconds to go, freshman two-meter Trevor Creighton beat sophomore goalkeeper Frasier Bunn on a penalty shot opportunity for Iona’s first goal. Bunn finished with seven saves in two periods of work.
“[Iona] has been very close against some excellent teams, some ranked teams this year, so I was very pleased with the effort,” said Head Coach Wolf Wigo. “This was a team that, if we didn’t come out ready to play, could make it a very close game. We came out very focused and did what we had to. We took them out of the game early in the beginning and kept it up.”
Even with an 8-1 halftime advantage, UCSB did indeed continue to press offensively, scoring four more times, even when Wigo turned to his reserves. Freshman two-meter Noah Smith scored twice in the third from point-blank range, and sophomore driver Joe Plume registered the first goal of his career minutes later. Sophomore goalkeeper Russell Russo LeVasseur made his first appearance of the season in the second half, surrendering only one goal himself while saving three. Similar to the previous three, UCSB dominated the fourth period with a three-goal effort capped by freshman driver Ryen Flint’s first career goal.
“What we didn’t do was play down to them,” said Wigo. “We played at our level, and that’s the main reason it was such a big blowout.”
Following Tuesday’s dominating performance, the Gauchos hit the road yet again for this weekend’s Southern California Tournament hosted by Pepperdine. There they expect to meet some familiar teams from the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, some more familiar than others.
“We’ll have to play Irvine again,” said Wigo, “A team we lost to early in the season and just beat this weekend. That was a big win, and hopefully we can more this weekend.”
UCSB and UCI (2-8) will meet for the third time this season in the tournament’s opening round. The two teams have split the season series so far, with Irvine taking the first game 10-9 at the Northern California Tournament only to be beaten by the Gauchos 14-12 at home last weekend. Game start is set for 9:20 a.m.