The #9 UCSB men’s water polo team (9-8 overall, 0-1 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) suffered another heartbreaking loss against the #6 Long Beach 49ers this past weekend, losing 11-10 to give them their fifth defeat in their last six matches, with four of them coming by two goals or less. The Gauchos, and their vocal leader, junior utility Milos Golic, were again extremely disappointed after coming up short.
“It’s incredibly frustrating,” Golic said. “It’s flat out embarrassing [to lose five out of the last six].”
The 49ers (7-8 overall, 1-3 in conference) opened up the game strong by scoring two unanswered goals. However, UCSB responded with two of their own to tie the match after the first quarter. Long Beach again looked to be the aggressor with a 3-2 advantage in the second quarter, giving the home team a slim 5-4 lead over the Gauchos at halftime.
The second half opened up with another 49er goal, as sophomore driver Alexsandr Petrovic extended the Long Beach lead to 6-4. After being down by two goals in the second half to a game 49ers squad, junior utility Milos Golic stepped it up a notch, scoring three unanswered goals to give Santa Barbara a lead heading into the fourth quarter.
UCSB would score three goals in the fourth quarter, but the defense would not hold, allowing three of their own to tie the score 9-9 at regulation. In what has become a frequent occurrence for Santa Barbara, overtime play was necessary to decide the victor.
With their recent track record in overtime — 9-2 over the last two years — the Gauchos were very confident heading into the extra period, but Long Beach would strike first. Quickly, junior utility Zsomber Vincze tied things up once again to keep the game level and force a second overtime. Neither offense could muster up a goal in the second overtime, forcing an unprecedented sudden death victory. Over the span of two sudden death periods, both offenses were quiet until UCSB was blessed with six to five player advantage and an open shot from the post — an “ideal situation” according to Golic. However, Santa Barbara squandered its opportunity and allowed 49er senior driver Justin Koeppen to score the winning goal for Long Beach right after the UCSB miscue.
Golic, who led the Gauchos with six goals in the game, felt as though the referees were biased toward the 49ers due to the home field advantage, but he ultimately faults his own team in losing yet another close match.
“It’s embarrassing what the referees did in that game, but at the same time, when we blow such a great opportunity we can’t complain to anyone,” Golic said.
With defending National Champion USC, who have already defeated the Gauchos twice this year, coming to campus pool on Thursday, Santa Barbara will have to figure out its problems post haste if the team hopes to restore their season in time for an NCAA birth.