The #6 UCSB men’s water polo team finished in fifth place at the Northern California Tournament this past weekend, defeating #11 UC San Diego, #7 Pacific and #5 UC Irvine but losing 7-6 to #4 Stanford – a squad that beat the Gauchos in both their meetings last season.
“It was very disappointing,” UCSB head coach and Stanford alumnus Wolf Wigo said. “We could have played better.”
UCSB (5-1 overall) first faced off against #11 UCSD. Having defeated the Tritons earlier that week, the Gauchos cruised to a 10-7 victory after senior utility Milos Golic, sophomore utility Brian Shoemaker and junior 2-meter Noah Smith each contributed two goals.
With the win, UCSB played #4 Stanford. However, the Cardinal caught the Gauchos off guard and jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead. In the second quarter, the Gauchos outscored Stanford 2-0 in the second quarter to tie the game at 3-3 at half.
With two minutes left in the fourth quarter, Stanford prevailed after outscoring UCSB 2-1 in the final quarter, giving the Gauchos their first lost of the season.
“I was very upset,” Golic said. “We weren’t mentally prepared.”
In the Gauchos 9-5 win over Pacific, the Gauchos jumped to a 3-0 lead in the first period but the Tigers responded with two of their own. Both offenses cooled down and second after only scoring a goal each. UCSB pulled away in the third, outscoring Pacific 3-1 and booking a trip to the fifth-place game. Freshman driver Matt Gronow netted a hat-trick, while Golic and senior utility Zsombor Vincze each scored a pair of goals.
In the Gauchos 10-9 win over UC Irvine in the final match of the tournament, the Gauchos outscored Irvine 2-0 in the second after both teams scored four in the first. With a 10-7 lead heading into the fourth quarter, the Gauchos allowed two consecutive goals but still managed to scrape by with the victory.
In the tournament, senior keeper Fraser Bunn and sophomore keeper Myles Christian split time in the cage, with Bunn recording 12 saves and Christian recording 18. Freshman Jay Lovero also recorded six in the UCSD Game.
Golic scored 10 total goals in the tournament, leaving him 12 shy of the Gaucho school record. Shoemaker recorded the second most goals for the Gauchos with five on the weekend, while Bishop rounded out the top three with four goals of his own.
Although the Gauchos failed to beat Stanford in their third consecutive meeting, the team remains unscathed in the Collegiate Water Polo Assn. Rankings, maintaining their status as the sixth-best team in the nation.
“We have to move on,” Golic said. It’s not the end of the world.”
UCSB returns to Goleta to face #5 Irvine again on Sept. 26, before traveling to UCLA for the SoCal Tournament on Oct. 2.
“We are not content with fifth place [in the NorCal tournament],” Bishop said. “We are already looking towards the So-Cal tournament.”