The term “legend” is usually used to describe an exceptional player long after he has retired. After less than three years at UC Santa Barbara, junior utility Milos Golic of the men’s water polo team, is already earning the reputation of the title, leading many to speculate that he is the best player in school history.

“He’s probably the best player in the history of UCSB,” teammate and junior utility Zsombor Vincze said.

Vincze’s claim is bold, considering men’s water polo is the only team besides men’s soccer to win a national title throughout the history of the school. However, Vincze believes the game has evolved and level of play has significantly increased. With that and Golic’s already impeccable statistics in mind, few could argue against his claim.

Golic’s road to Santa Barbara began in his home country of Serbia, where water polo is a premiere sport. Golic began to play the sport at a very young age and was accepted into Partizan Belgrade, which is touted as one of the best water polo schools in the world. From there, Golic began dedicating himself to the pool and learning all of the water polo fundamentals.
Success came naturally to the talented player, who won more than 20 national championships at different levels and was named MVP in more tournaments than can be listed. In fact, in Golic’s 11-year career in Europe with Partizan and the Serbian National Youth Team, his squads only lost five matches in over 100 games. The rarity of losing made the taste of defeat difficult for Golic to stomach.

“I can’t stand losing,” Golic said. “To me, the feeling of winning is the most valuable thing in sports.”

Golic’s incredible statistics caught the eye of Wolf Wigo, a three-time Olympian and head coach of UCSB water polo. Wigo immediately offered Golic a scholarship, which the “Serbian Sensation” graciously accepted. Golic made the move to Santa Barbara for the great educational opportunities provided by the university, but more importantly for the chance to help build the up-and-coming program.

“I wanted to make a difference and change something,” Golic said.

In his first season, the change in the team was evident. Golic scored 53 goals — the second highest total on the team — before winning the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Conference Newcomer of the Year. Golic also made a splash by making Second Team All-MPSF and an All-American honorable mention. Though the post-season awards were nice, the intensity that the Serbian injected into the team may have paid the largest dividend.

In his first home game as a Gaucho, UCSB went into the locker room at halftime down by a few goals. Only a freshman, the young Golic voiced his opinion loud and clear, making it known that the first half of play was unacceptable.

“We all were really surprised,” Wigo said. “But we learned [over time] … that’s Milos.”

The locker room was filled with shock, but Santa Barbara played much better in the second half. Since his first game in the blue and gold, Golic’s drive to win has set the tone for the Gauchos over the past three seasons.

As a sophomore, Golic netted 82 goals to lead the MPSF in total goals as well as most goals per game with 3.03. He had 18 games with a hat trick or more and was tied for first on UCSB with 21 assists. Golic was named to the First Team All-MPSF and was the first Gaucho in over 20 years to earn First Team All-American honors. He was also awarded UCSB Male Athlete of the Year at the SB Awards last year over the likes of professional soccer player Chris Pontius and basketball star Chris Devine. However, Golic did not stop there.

Twenty-three games deep into the 2009 season, the junior has 58 goals, which ranks first in the MPSF in total goals and second in goals per game with 2.64. His career goal total is now at an incredible 193, which leaves him 40 shy of the all-time UCSB record — a record Golic will undoubtedly pass.

Despite the individual success, Golic puts the team goals above his own. And after a rough start to the season, Golic scored four goals to lead #9 Santa Barbara to its first MPSF win last weekend over Pacific. Their next game is at home against #7 UC Irvine, a team that has already defeated the Gauchos this year. However, with Golic’s current hot streak and the team finally gelling, UCSB seems capable of achieving anything. The Irvine game will take place this Saturday at Campus Pool with the ball set to drop at 12 p.m.