In what turned out to be another historic weekend for UCSB women’s water polo, senior utility Gillian Morgan tied the school record for goals in a game as the #19 Gauchos split four matches at UC Irvine Invitational. Santa Barbara (6-5 overall) upset #13 Long Beach State and #11 Michigan after falling to #1 USC and #7 UC Davis the day before.
UCSB got their shot at top-ranked USC (10-1) in the invitational’s first game, but the Trojans came prepared and dealt a 16-3 humbling. Southern Cal led 9-0 at intermission, and did not allow a Gaucho goal until the fourth period when the outcome was no longer in doubt. Eleven different Trojans found the back of the net against sophomore goalkeeper Chelsea Carrillo, with senior driver Michelle Stein leading all scorers with three. As for the Gauchos, Morgan scored two of Santa Barbara’s three goals, both coming in the fourth period in which UCSB outscored USC 3-2.
“It’s always a challenge to get in the pool and play a number one team knowing they’re a dominant team.” said Morgan. “I think we came in really prepared, in the first quarter we came out strong, I don’t think they came out as hard as they initially could have. Obviously they pretty much dominated the game, but I think we learned some things on defense.”
Perhaps more brutal than the 16-3 Trojan thrashing was the 10-6 loss at the hands of UC Davis (11-5), a game in which the Gauchos trailed by a single goal heading into the fourth. UCSB seemed to run out of steam in the final period as the Aggies struck four times to solidify the victory. Morgan once again led the Gauchos with yet another hat trick, but was matched goal-for-goal by sophomore utility Michelle Hook on the opposite side of the pool. UCSB once again fell to a team whose offense was run by committee, as Davis employed seven different players in their scoring effort, compared to the Gaucho’s three. Sophomore goalkeeper Kate Murphy saved eight for Santa Barbara, while her junior counterpart Casey Hines also saved eight.
“…We really wanted to beat Davis,” said Morgan. “That was one of the more physical games, the ejection ratio was like 19-6 in their favor; it was just a crazy game all over the place.”
On the tournament’s second day, UCSB secured two of the young season’s biggest wins in upsetting nationally-ranked Long Beach State (3-6) and Michigan (8-7). Against the 49ers, UCSB found themselves down 4-3 after a period of play, but kept the deficit at one for the next two frames. Trailing 8-7 at the beginning of the fourth, the Gauchos got hot, outscoring a surprised Long Beach squad 4-2 to win the match 11-10. Morgan once again was key for the Gaucho’s offense, leading all scorers with seven goals, a number that tied Sarah Kovach’s school record for goals in a game.
“It felt good,” said Morgan. “It was a good game. I think I did well offensively, but our team in general also did really well defensively, which really fortified the win in a sense. They got a lot of scoring opportunities at the very end when we were tied and we shut them down.”
Hours later, UCSB took Michigan by surprise with another strong fourth period performance on the way to a 7-4 victory. Sophomore utility Claire Buchannan had two goals in a winning effort alongside Morgan’s pair of scores.
“I think we’re really happy with final outcome,” said Morgan. “The first game, it was a hard matchup, USC’s the number one team obviously, but after that matchup … we really pulled it together at the end, won some games we really needed to win, and I think that helped boost our confidence a lot.”