Who would have thought that the decrepit Campus Pool, a facility closed down last spring due to structural issues, could still have some magic left? Entering the weekend’s matches with a perfect 4-0 record at home, the #7 UCSB men’s water polo team shocked the #2 Stanford Cardinal 5-4 on Sunday off junior Sean Castillo’s eventual game-winning goal after needing overtime to dismiss #10 Long Beach State 13-12 the day before.
The Gauchos (15-8 overall, 4-2 in conference), who broke a 22-year-long losing streak to the Cardinal (21-3, 5-1) last year in Palo Alto, now own a two-year winning streak over a team that had only lost two games this season, both to #1 USC by a combined eight goals. Stanford started off on the right foot when junior utility Drac Wigo, brother of UCSB Head Coach Wolf Wigo, capitalized on a six-on-five opportunity for a 1-0 lead. Gaucho senior driver Miles Price answered moments later facing a similar man-advantage, evening the score at 1-1. In the second period, junior two-meter Jesse Tootell immediately gave the Gauchos their first lead of the match, just 38 seconds in. Minutes later, Stanford junior driver Sage Wright re-tied the game with a blistering strike passed sophomore goalkeeper Fraser Bunn. Santa Barbara regained the lead with a 3:58 minute goal by senior driver Travis Watts, giving the Gauchos a 3-2 halftime advantage. However, UCSB would have to finish the game without sophomore utility Milos Golic who was ejected from the game after earning his third personal foul. Golic, who leads the MPSF with 70 goals, saw his 26-game scoring streak snapped after being tossed.
In the third, Price netted his second goal to give the Gauchos a 4-2 lead. Facing a two-goal deficit, Stanford rallied to tie the game at 4-4 after back-to-back goals from Wright and freshman driver Jacob Smith.
That set the stage for Castillo’s goal, a rebound off Watts’ shot that hit the crossbar moments beforehand. UCSB hung on for the 5-4 upset, surviving two man-down possessions by Stanford. Bunn was brilliant for Santa Barbara, posting 10 big saves in pressure situations.
“Defense won that game,” said Castillo. “Stanford usually puts up double-digits, so our defense definitely had to step up. Our shot blocking was great, they were 1-11 in six-on-five chances, and less than half those made it to the goal. The ones that did, [Bunn] did a great job of saving them.”
On the day before, UCSB handled the 49ers (11-14, 0-5) in its fifth overtime match in six games. Golic tied his career high with seven goals on the day, including the game winner in the second overtime. Senior two-meter Ashley Blythen led Long Beach with four goals.
“Long Beach played very well, they never let up,” said Castillo. “But the moment we went into overtime, we knew we were going to win. They were pretty tired at that point.”
UCSB will finish the season against UCLA and Pepperdine next weekend at Campus Pool.