As has been the case all year, the #10 UCSB men’s water polo team lost two games this past weekend by very narrow margins. Santa Barbara (12-13 overall, 1-6 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) lost to #7 UC Irvine on Saturday before falling to #4 UCLA on Sunday by identical scores of 9-7.
After earning their first MPSF win over Pacific, the Gauchos entered their game against UCI (15-9, 3-3) with high energy and expectations.
The Anteaters’ senior utility Cole Bielskis opened up the scoring in the game with a 6-5 Irvine advantage. However, the Gauchos responded quickly with super-human junior utility Milos Golic scoring a goal off a power play. Next, junior utility Zsombor Vincze, who has finally recovered from a sick bug, notched his first of seven goals on the weekend to give UCSB its first lead of the game. However, Irvine notched another goal before the quarter finished to tie the game at 2. The Gauchos took a 4-3 lead off a Golic penalty shot, but conceded two goals before the half to make it 5-4 UCI.
Vincze tied the game at 5-5 with Santa Barbara’s lone goal in the third quarter. However, a UCSB foul would allow Irvine a penalty shot, which they would convert to go up 6-5 before the final quarter of play. The Anteaters then notched back-to-back goals in the fourth to take a comfortable 8-5 lead. Try as they might, the Gauchos could not overcome the deficit and fell 9-7. Ultimately, UCSB attributes the loss to a combination of mediocre play and bad luck.
“We have to earn our luck,” Vincze said. “We came out cautious … [and] didn’t do that.”
UCSB then hit the road, but did not have to travel too far as they were playing the Bruins of UCLA. After their disappointing loss the day before, the Gauchos were hoping to regain form against UCLA. However, the Bruins had other ideas in mind. UCLA jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first quarter off two quick goals, leaving Santa Barbara trailing. However, UCSB rallied to score two of their own to tie the game. Both teams would score one more goal in the first quarter each to leave the score at a level 3-3 when time transpired. Vincze scored early in the second quarter to capture a 4-3 lead, Santa Barbara’s only lead of the game. However, from that point on, UCLA took control of the game and never looked back, winning 9-7.
As it stands, UCSB has a slim chance of even advancing one game in the conference tournament. That is a far cry from its NCAA dreams earlier this year.