After playing their alumni this Saturday, the members of the #5 UCSB men’s water polo team will face off against #4 Stanford on Sunday in a match with the makings of an epic conference showdown.

[media-credit id=16819 align=”alignleft” width=”250″][/media-credit]“This is a big, big conference game,” senior utility Milos Golic said. “We can really make an impact for the rest of [the season].”

The Gauchos (9-4 overall) are 1-1 against Stanford this season after beating the Cardinal 12-10 at the UCLA SoCal tournament on Oct. 2., breaking a three-match losing streak. In their first meeting of the season, Stanford beat UCSB 7-6 after regaining the lead in the fourth quarter.

“We want to prove that our victory wasn’t lucky and that we are a serious team,” Golic said. “They need to think about us all the time.”

However, Sunday’s match is against a Cardinal squad who may have found its rhythm after losing four of its six matches from Sept. 19 to Oct. 3. Last weekend, Stanford upset #1 USC 5-3 in Palo Alto, snapping a 17-game losing streak to the Trojans while handing them their first loss of the year.

“We have a lot of confidence now,” freshman driver Matt Gronow said. “However, knowing they beat USC, [Stanford has] a lot of confidence too.”

However, Gronrow adds that they should not be overconfident.

“We can’t go in with arrogance or cockiness,” the Melbourne native added.

Given their talented team, UCSB believes their biggest challenge is in fact their mentality.

“We’re ready physically,” senior utility Zsombor Vincze said. “But we have to prepare ourselves mentally.”

Fortunately for UCSB, its mentality is always strong against tough opponents.

Both teams will enter the game evenly matched. Stanford scores an average of 11.82 goals per game while the gauchos score 10.54. Despite Stanford’s offense being slightly more productive, their top scorer, junior utility Peter Sefton, only has 20 goals compared to Golic’s 34. Vincze has also scored 20 goals on the season, and with Golic forms one of the most efficient scoring pairs in the nation.

In addition to its dynamic duo on offense, Santa Barbara’s defense has fared better than the Cardinal’s has this year and Gronrow believes that it is the most critical part of this game.

“Our defense won it for us last time,” the Gronrow said. “It’s all about defense.”

One more advantage for UCSB is its home pool advantage. The Gauchos have an impeccable record at home over the past few years and attribute it to their crowd.

“It definitely helps if we have a strong crowd,” Head Coach Wolf Wigo said. “The crowd makes winning easier.”

UCSB faces their alumni this Saturday at 12 p.m. On Sunday, they will face off against Stanford and the ball also drops at 12 p.m.