The #9 UC Santa Barbara men’s water polo team had their best showing in a month this past weekend after going 2-1 on the way to earning their first Mountain Pacific Sports Federation win.
The Gauchos (12-11 overall, 1-4 MPSF) opened up this past weekend against #2 Cal (17-4, 4-1). Santa Barbara’s confidence was riding high heading into the game despite a 12-8 loss to the Golden Bears earlier this season. UCSB came out firing and initiated the scoring first. However, Cal responded to knot the game at 1-1 before junior utility Zsombor Vincze found the back of the net to break the tie and leave Berkeley trailing once again.
The Bears would respond once again, keeping the game level heading into a decisive second quarter. But much like their 13-8 loss against Stanford in a game last week, the second period would be the team’s downfall. Cal scored two goals to Santa Barbara’s none to take a 4-2 lead and essentially all the momentum heading into the half.
Mentally dejected, UCSB could not keep up with the torrid pace of one of the nation’s top teams, outscored once again in the third 2-1, with their only goal coming off a five meter penalty shot by junior utility Milos Golic. The Gauchos’ 7-4 final spelled yet another disappointing finish.
“It was a very bad performance by our team,” Golic said. “We were not at the level to play Berkeley at all.”
After losing to Cal, UCSB turned their attention to Fresno Pacific. Due to their roster’s depth, the Gauchos decided to let most of their freshmen and bench players face off against the Sunbirds. Needless to say, the freshmen lived up to the hype.
Freshman two-meter Teddy “The Panda” Zhang scored six goals on the day while freshman driver Chris Dyer netted his first career hat trick. The offensive explosion from the pair of youngsters propelled Santa Barbara to a 17-7 win. However, as UCSB was expected to defeat Fresno Pacific, they had to keep their head level and prepare for the Pacific Tigers on Saturday.
After putting up six goals against Fresno Pacific, “The Panda” earned the start against the Tigers and he did not disappoint, scoring the first goal of the game to get the Gauchos rolling. Golic added another goal in what became a huge quarter for UCSB, outscoring Pacific 6-0.
“The first quarter was our best quarter of the year,” Golic said.
The Gauchos were actually outscored 5-3 in the second half, but the damage had been done. Santa Barbara’s scorching offense gave them a conference victory that had eluded them over halfway through their MPSF schedule.
Golic believes that if Santa Barbara played every team they way they played Pacific (12-13, 0-6 MPSF), then they would be able to beat the upper tier teams like Cal and Stanford. But with only three games left until the MPSF Tournament, Golic is optimistic of his team’s chances in the postseason.
“We will definitely get two more wins before tournament,” Golic said.