After competing in the Big West Tournament this past weekend, the UCSB women’s water polo team saw its season end in a disappointing fashion. The Gauchos defeated Long Beach State before losing to Northridge in the Semi-Finals. They finished with a loss in the third place game against Pacific.
With hopes of a Big West Title, the team started the conference regular season hot with a 2-0 record. But UCSB peaked too soon and went 1-2 in its last three games which earned it the third seed for the conference tournament.
The tournament opener against Long Beach proved to be a much more difficult game than anticipated. Santa Barbara started off hot and took a 4-2 lead after the first period. The 49ers then battled back by scoring 4 goals in the second period to take a 6-5 lead at half.
Whatever words of wisdom UCSB head coach Wolf Wigo said at halftime seemed to work, as the Gauchos outscored Long Beach 6-2 and cruised into the fourth period with a three goal lead. However, Long Beach rallied to tie the game at 13-13 and force overtime.
Not one, not two, but three overtime periods were needed to decide the game. Finally, junior attacker Katie Kepner won the game in the first sudden victory overtime and Santa Barbara bought itself a ticket into the semifinals.
Having lost to Northridge three times during the year already, the Gauchos still remained confident. However, the Matadors again proved to be too much on both sides of the ball and earned their trip to the Tournament finals.
With its season goal gone, Santa Barbara was dejected.
“It was definitely, definitely disappointing,” junior utility Christie Clark said. “We wanted this for our seniors.”
The UCSB attack was held scoreless in both the first and third quarters and their defense could not stop the surge from the Matador offense, allowing eleven total goals compared to the five Santa Barbara scored.
From there, UCSB went on to face Pacific for the third place game. With the season series tied at 1-1, the game was predicted to be close. And it was. But not in the way the Gauchos wanted
Unfortunately for UCSB, the Tigers won 7-5 and took third place. The Gauchos and their 18 wins for the season had to settle for fourth and only dream of what could have been.
“Everything fell apart towards the end,” junior utility Kathryn Nelson said.
But the Gauchos are already optimistic about their chances for next year. The squad returns its entire core, as the only players leaving are Kepner, senior center Lizzie Rouleau, and senior attacker Taylor Byrne.
“Next year we will have a better chance to win [the Big West] and go to the NCAAs,” Nelson said.