Two games, two wins: The UCSB women’s water polo team (2-0 overall) opened up their season last weekend in the Gaucho Mini Tournament facing Cal State Bakersfield and Pomona-Pitzer. At the end of the tournament, only one team remained unbeaten: Santa Barbara.
Opening up against Bakersfield was no easy task for the Gauchos. The Roadrunners had defeated UCSB in their last two meetings and held a mental edge over their opponent. However, Santa Barbara came out firing on all cylinders, and never looked back.
After redshirting in 2009, junior utility Christie Clark scored the Gauchos’ first goal 42 seconds into the game. Sophomore utility Elle Quane added another goal off a penalty shot to hand UCSB a 2-0 lead. Bakersfield responded with a goal of their own, but Clark would register her second goal of the match to give Santa Barbara a 3-1 lead when the first period had ended.
Another strong second quarter by the Gaucho defense saw them take a 4-1 lead at half. Junior attacker Katie Kepner then added the fifth and final goal for the Gauchos to give them a commanding 5-1 lead.
The Roadrunners fought back, adding two more goals, but it was too little too late as UCSB won 5-3.
“Victory already tastes sweet,” Kepner said. “But revenge tastes even sweeter.”
Santa Barbara then rode the momentum into the Pomona-Pitzer game. After defeating Bakersfield, UCSB dismantled P-P as nine different Gauchos scored en route to their second victory of the season. After going up 7-2 at half, the Gauchos continued the pressure and outscored the Sagehens 5-4 in the second half for a 12-6 victory. Junior utility Claire Buchanan and freshman defender Kacey Creek led the way with two goals each and the defense put in another great effort.
For UCSB, the tournament finished perfectly.
“We got everything we wanted out of this weekend,” Head Coach Wolf Wigo said. “We were very satisfied.”
Despite the offensive explosion in the second game, Santa Barbara credits the successful weekend to their defense.
“The defense really saved us,” Kepner said. “They played great.”
The defense held the team together when the offense struggled to put away balls in the first game. Perhaps excited by playing in their first game of the season or revenging losses to Bakersfield, the Gauchos rushed the ball on several plays.
“We tried to force the ball too many times,” junior utility Kathryn Nelson said. “We need to be more patient with our chances.”
Next, UCSB will travel to Santa Clara this weekend to face the Broncos before they head to the Northern California Invitational. The tournament will host several top 10 teams, and will be a true test of Santa Barbara’s skills.
“We will be able to learn a lot more from next weekend,” Wigo said.
Despite the potential threats at the tournament, the ever confident Kepner remains mentally un-phased.
“UCSB is going to rock Northern California,” the junior said.