The #7 UCSB men’s water polo team closed out the remainder of their regular-season road schedule this weekend with an 11-8 loss to #4 Cal before needing overtime once again to settle the score at #19 Pacific for a narrow 11-10 victory.
The Gauchos (13-8 overall, 2-2 in conference) resumed Mountain Pacific Sports Federation play against the Golden Bears (14-5, 1-2), a team that had yet to win a conference game coming into Saturday’s match. Junior two-meter Jesse Tootell put the Gauchos on the board first with just under three minutes gone, but freshman attacker Ivan Rackov evened the score to 1-1 to close out the first period. In the second, the Golden Bears netted three unanswered to blow the game wide open off of contributions by three different players. In all, no less than 10 players would score for Cal compared to four from UCSB. Sophomore utility Milos Golic and senior driver Miles Price would stop the bleeding with back-to-back strikes to cut the lead to 4-3, but senior attacker Frank Reynolds would sneak one past junior goalkeeper Michael Robinson to give Cal the 5-3 advantage at intermission.
After the break, Cal buried the visiting Gauchos with four consecutive goals to open up a 9-3 lead before Golic cashed in on a pair of penalty shots, cutting the deficit to 9-5. UCSB would outscore the Golden Bears 3-2 in the final period, but could not complete the comeback, losing 11-8. Robinson finished with eight saves during his first start in two weeks, while his Cal counterpart sophomore Jacob McIntosh saved nine. Surprising no one, Golic led the Gauchos four goals in his 16th multi-goal performance of the season, while freshman attacker Charlie Steffens led the Golden bears with two.
“In the Cal game, we played pretty well,” said Head Coach Wolf Wigo, “but we could have played better. We were in the game down by two goals with a couple minutes left and had a lot of momentum, but we made a couple of elementary mistakes, which was a shame because for most of the game we played well enough to pull off the upset.”
The following day, UCSB traveled to Stockton to face a Pacific squad (10-16, 0-4) that they had already beaten twice this year. The visiting Gauchos jumped out to a quick 3-1 lead off three big goals from Golic, who would not score again the rest of the way. Pacific refused to fold, earning consecutive goals from senior two-meter defender Shane Mahoney and sophomore utility Austin Delong to tie the game at 3-3 early in the second period. The Tigers and Gauchos traded goals through the remainder of the period, with freshman two-meter Noah Smith giving the guests a 6-5 lead at the half.
Pacific came out hot in the third period with two quick strikes from Mahoney and Delong to give the Tigers a slim 7-6 advantage before Price beat senior goalkeeper Brian Domecus to tie the game once again. Mahoney and junior attacker Grant Hollis provided breakaway goals to close out the third period, putting Pacific up 9-7 going into the final frame. In the fourth, Price struck again with 4:46 remaining before junior two-meter defender Kendell Olds, who had the game-winning goal against #8 UC San Diego last week, forced overtime with a brilliant blast past Domecus. The Gauchos, who had gone 3-1 in their last four overtime matches, began the scoring late in the first overtime period with Tootell netting his only goal of the match. Junior driver Joey Rossi came out of nowhere to tie the game up at ten with 1:45 to play, setting the table for Price to score the eventual game winner with 0:36 left to play. With five goals this weekend, Price now has 29 goals on the year, enough for second on the team.
“[Pacific] is always tough, probably the toughest place to play away at in the country,” said Wigo, “and they had a huge crowd, tons of hecklers, and they were really fired up. We were lucky to be able to get it into overtime and to pull out the win. [Price] had some really clutch goals, [Golic] was solid for us again, and [Smith] and [Olds] played well.”
With the road schedule done for the regular season, UCSB returns home for a four-game homestand, beginning with Long Beach State and Stanford next weekend.