Having lost their last two matches against Northridge, the UCSB women’s water polo team hopes that the third time’s the charm this Saturday against the Matadors. Despite their recent woes against CSUN, the Gauchos are confident going into Saturday’s game, and for good reason.
Riding a six-game win streak, #12 Santa Barbara (15-8 overall, 2-0 Big West) is coming in scorching hot. With frequent improvements in all facets of their game, the Gauchos have not dropped a game since early March.
Senior center Lizzie Rouleau has been lighting up the scoreboard lately, scoring five goals last weekend to add to her team-leading total of 28 on the season. Keeping pace with Rouleau is junior utility Christie Clark, who netted a hat trick against Irvine last weekend to give her 27 for the season. Following the duo is a trio of Gauchos tied with 18 goals each — freshman attacker Shelby Haroldson and junior utilities Claire Buchanan and Katie Kepner.
The recent offensive surge has worked wonders in boosting the team’s confidence.
“We are all really excited to see what we can do [against Northridge],” junior utility Kathryn Nelson said. “We want to bring out the big guns and scare them.”
In order to overcome the #10 Matadors (21-6 overall, 2-0 Big West) this weekend, the offense is going to need to continue its strong play and find a way to get past senior goalkeeper Jillian Stapf. Stapf was First-Team All Big West Conference last year and has a history of “mentally shutting down” Santa Barbara.
However, with freshman phenom Ruth Milne at goalkeeper on their side, the Gauchos are able to regain some leverage. Milne is averaging over ten saves per game and is a deserving candidate for team MVP up to this point in the season.
In addition to their impressive winning streak, Santa Barbara boasts a home record of 9-1. And with Northridge coming in with a pool significantly smaller than the Gauchos, the home advantage only increases.
“We have been having a lot of upsets lately,” Milne said. “Northridge is going to be another one.”