The #6 UCSB water polo team will host their first games of the season this weekend, commencing with their annual alumni game on Saturday and culminating with a two-game series Sunday against fellow Division I opponents #10 Concordia and Whittier College.

The Gauchos will begin their weekend with their annual game against the team’s alumni, which always turns out to be a very tough (albeit fun) match. However, this weekend will not be all fun and games, because on Sunday, Santa Barbara must get back to business.

UCSB will be playing in their first game after nearly two weeks of hiatus. They will open up against the Concordia Eagles, who boast an impressive 13-2 overall record. However, the Gauchos are the much favored team on paper. Last year, UCSB had an incredible home pool advantage and this year has beaten more nationally-ranked opponents, including UCSD, who defeated the Eagles in the Northern California Invitational. With this in mind, UCSB remains exceptionally confident.

“We should come out and dominate them (Concordia and Whittier),” senior driver Sean Castillo said.

As the Gauchos have clearly stated their goal for the 2009 season is a national title, merely defeating teams of Concordia and Whittier’s caliber is not sufficient enough. Rather, UCSB looks to dismantle them.

After facing Concordia, Santa Barbara will take on the Whittier College Poets. Whittier (5-7 overall) does not appear to be as formidable as Concordia does. However, they are not to be taken lightly as they have had solid showings against several tough teams this year and UCSB will be playing on short rest. In fact, the Whittier game will commence just two hours after the Concordia game begins.

With games on such short rest, the confidence of many teams might wane. However, nothing seems to be able to shake the Gauchos’ self-confidence.

“We’re one of the teams that have practiced the longest,” Castillo said. “If we stick to our game plan, the second game would be like a normal tournament.”

Santa Barbara has consistently practiced three times a day to maximize their endurance and ability in close games. To the average person, practicing eight hours a day in a pool would seem unbearable. However, for the Gauchos, it is normal and they view it as another stepping stone to their goal of winning the NCAA tournament.
“It’s one of those things you have to do to compete in this league,” senior driver Stefan Partelow said. “It definitely pays off.”

Last year UCSB’s conditioning paid off as they were 8-1 in nine overtime games, including a victory in a seven-overtime thriller against UCSD. This year, they are 1-0 and do not look to be getting fatigued anytime soon.