While most UC Santa Barbara students took it easy over spring break, the women’s water polo team was busy doing what it does best — winning. Playing host at the UCSB Invitational, the Gauchos (13-8 overall) extended their winning streak to four after notching wins over Big West foes Pacific and Irvine.
The game against Pacific started off relatively even. Senior center Lizzie Rouleau found the back of the cage to put Santa Barbara on top just a minute into the game. Quickly, Pacific countered with a goal of its own to tie it up. Junior utility Kathryn Nelson then scored on a Gaucho power play to regain the lead before the Tigers put the score back at 2-2 before the end of the first quarter.
Frustrated by their poor start, UCSB came out with a different mindset in the second quarter. Santa Barbara capitalized on three of their four power plays before adding a fourth and final goal to lead 6-2 heading into halftime.
The Tigers would outscore the Gauchos 3-2 in the second half of the game, but it was too little too late. The damage was done and UCSB had secured its twelfth victory of the year. Freshman keeper Ruth Milne had an astounding 12 saves in the match.
“I’m happy with our results,” Nelson said. “It could not have gone any better.”
In its next game against Irvine, Santa Barbara was eager to turn their momentum into a second 2010 defeat of the Anteaters, but Irvine took the lead just three minutes into the game. Not to be denied, the Gauchos countered with two goals of their own before the first quarter came to a close.
After UCI evened the score at 2-2, the third quarter would prove to be another close battle as both teams converted two goals apiece. Santa Barbara’s first goal came on a five-meter penalty off the hand of junior utility Christie Clark, while Nelson stepped up once again to put in UCSB’s second score of the period.
In the fourth and final quarter, Irvine reclaimed a 5-4 advantage, but the Gauchos fired back to outscore their opponents 3-1 to edge out a 7-5 thriller. Milne posted nine more saves for a total of 21 in the two game mini-tournament.
“We really wanted to beat Irvine,” Nelson said. “They will be a little afraid of us next time [we meet].”
Santa Barbara’s next game is against Long Beach State this Friday. The preservation of their winning ways coupled with a storied rivalry with the 49ers makes this game a must win — at least for the UCSB players involved.
“We want to kill Long Beach,” Nelson said.