Senior utility Gillian Morgan tied, broke and tied again her career single-game scoring mark as the #20 UCSB women’s water polo team split four games at UCSD’s Triton Invitational last weekend. The Gauchos (4-3 overall) dropped a pair of matches to #12 Cal State Northridge and #15 Cal State Bakersfield by a combined four goals on Saturday before dispensing of Maryland and Cal Baptist the following afternoon.

Against CSUN (2-3), UCSB actually led for the majority of the match, taking a hard-earned 4-2 lead into intermission. While the Gauchos scored another goal in the early third, the Matadors would rebound in a big way, striking three consecutive times before freshman two-meter defender Heidi Pettinger snuck one past sophomore goalkeeper Chelsea Carrillo, giving Northridge an 8-7 lead they would not surrender. In what was to be a harbinger of things to come, Morgan led the Gauchos with three goals, while junior driver Kirra Kylander paced the Matadors with four.

“The first game with Northridge was supposed to be the hardest game,” said Morgan. “We ended up being up three or four goals throughout the game, and we just kind of had a weak end of the third quarter and kind of gave it away.”

As fate would have it, UCSB would get another shot at Bakersfield (6-3) in the tournament’s second match. Having suffered a 13-9 defeat to the Roadrunners in the season-opener, the Gauchos seemed poised to right that wrong, taking a 6-4 lead into halftime. But in an eerily similar replay of the Northridge game, Santa Barbara was once again dominated in the second half as CSUB outscored them 8-5 to steal a 12-11 win. Even with seven different Gauchos contributing goals (Morgan led the team with a career-high tying five), UCSB’s defense had no answer for senior two-meter Amanda Ortiz. The Puerto Rican native dropped six goals on the Santa Barbara defense, adding to the three she scored against UCSB in their first meeting.

“We came back strong against Bakersfield,” said Morgan, “and the same thing kind of happened, we just had a lapse in the third and they scored in the last 30 seconds [of the fourth] to win the game. A very disappointing way to end the game as well.”

Day two was far kinder to a Santa Barbara squad in need of a win. Against Maryland (1-3), UCSB refused to let third-period adversity deprive them of another win as they watched the Terrapins cut the 7-3 halftime deficit to 10-8, relying on a 4-1 fourth period to solidify a 14-9 win. Morgan continued her offensive hot streak, netting a career-high six goals, one of eight different Gauchos to score. Sophomore goalkeeper Kate Murphy turned in a career performance in goal, saving nine, including a few clutch saves in the fourth.

“I think I came in with some more confidence,” Morgan said. “Our team has a lot of good passers who found me open, and our 6-on-5 was doing pretty well.”

Hours later, Morgan had not cooled off, much to the dismay of a Cal Baptist squad (2-5) that had lost four of their last five by an average of nearly eight goals. The Rio Americano High School product tied her newly minted career high of six goals and was instrumental in building a commanding 9-3 halftime advantage. While once again the opposition mustered a stellar third period, UCSB was able to match every one of the Lancer’s five goals, outscoring them 4-2 in the fourth for an 18-10 blowout win. Nine different Gauchos scored at least one goal, with senior defender Amanda Tipton and sophomore utility Claire Buchanan contributing two apiece.

UCSB, which finished 13th at the 2009 Triton Invitational, has the weekend off before participating in the UC Irvine Invitational on Feb. 21. After that, the Gauchos will host Cal State Monterey Bay for their home opener at Campus Pool on March 5.