The #12 UCSB women’s water polo team got everything they wanted and more from this past weekend, defeating storied adversary Long Beach 6-4 on Friday before dominating Irvine 13-7 on Saturday to extend their winning streak to six consecutive games.
“Everything is coming together,” junior utility Katie Kepner said. “We’re playing the best we have all year.”
Anything less than two wins would have left UCSB (14-8 overall, 2-0 Big West) with a sour taste in its mouth. However, the only thing Santa Barbara tasted this past weekend was sweet victory. Opening up conference play against Long Beach (8-14), the team was as excited as it was ready to play.
UCSB jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first quarter and added two more scores in the second quarter to take a 5-0 lead at half. The 49ers scored their first goal in the third period, but the Gauchos matched it for a 6-1 lead heading into the fourth.
Long Beach caught their second wind in the fourth quarter and put up three goals while holding Santa Barbara scoreless. However, the damage was already done and UCSB had its first Big West win.
The Gauchos had minimal time to celebrate as they had to prepare for their fourth meeting of the year with Irvine (9-13). The Anteaters won the first game in overtime, but UCSB had controlled the two games since.
Looking to take the season series, the home team started strong and did not look back. The offense erupted for three goals in the first two minutes of play, giving Santa Barbara a 5-2 lead heading into the second quarter. Irvine stayed alive by notching two goals to match UCSB’s offensive output in the second quarter, but the game was over by the third period. The defense held the Anteater offense scoreless until the fourth period, eventually winning 13-7 .
Although the offense scored 19 goals in two games, an ever improving defense deserves a lot of credit. Heading the defensive charge is freshman goalkeeper Ruth Milne. The first-year stopper is averaging over 10 saves a game so far this season.
“Ruth is the biggest factor that has led to our change this year,” Kepner said. “She is amazing.”
The talented yet humble Milne credits much of her success to the team.
“I really clicked well with the team,” Milne said.
The team chemistry will need to be at a premium this weekend as the Gauchos face-off against Cal State Northridge, who has won the last two matches between the teams.