It’s good to have home field advantage. It’s better to have the referees on your side. The #9 UCSB men’s water polo team lost another heartbreaker — this time to #5 Pepperdine — as the Waves’ three penalty shots proved to be the difference in the Gaucho’s 9-8 loss.
Santa Barbara opened up strong in the first quarter, scoring three goals. However, Pepperdine was even stronger as they came out fired up on their senior day. A seesaw battle in the first quarter resulted in a 4-3 advantage for the Waves. After the offensive explosion in the first quarter, both teams highlighted their defensive strengths in the second as they allowed only one goal a piece. At half, Pepperdine led 5-4.
But the Waves would score three goals in the third quarter to the UCSB’s one, leaving the Gauchos with an 8-5 deficit entering the fourth quarter. The Gauchos’ offense, led by junior utility Milos Golic, came out strong in the final quarter. They outscored the Waves 3-1, but the attack came too late, and the home team hung on to the victory.
“We were very disappointed,” junior utility Zsombor Vincze said. On the positive side, Golic scored six goals on his way to passing the 200-goal mark, making him just the fourth Gaucho to do so. However, Golic said he would have traded passing the milestone for a Santa Barbara win.
With the loss, UCSB will receive the #7 seed in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation tournament this weekend, meaning they will open up against Stanford, the #2 seed. This draw left the Gauchos content, as they deem the Cardinal “very beatable,” having matched up well against them in the past.
“There’s no doubt we can win,” senior driver Sean Castillo said. “It all just comes down to mental mistakes.”
The Gauchos are optimistic about their chances, believing that Stanford is their best chance for an early upset in the tournament.
“Stanford is our best option out of the top four teams,” senior driver Stefan Partelow said. “We match up really well against them.” Santa Barbara will play Stanford Friday morning, one day after Thanksgiving. Having to play a morning game the day after the most gluttonous day of the year can be a daunting task and has some of the players reevaluating their Turkey Day habits.
“We are trying to be conservative about our consuming,” Vincze said.
Whatever the Gauchos may eat on Thanksgiving, their real hunger is to qualify for the NCAA tournament, and this weekend is their last chance.