After a heartbreaking loss in its first conference game, the #6 UCSB men’s water polo team (9-5 overall, 0-1 MPSF) has the chance to redeem itself this weekend when it faces conference foes #8 Long Beach and #2 USC.

[media-credit id=20125 align=”alignleft” width=”250″][/media-credit]The Gauchos will open their weekend series against the 49ers (7-7 overall, 0-1 MPSF) at Campus Pool. After their recent loss to #4 Stanford, UCSB feels the need for a comeback.

“It’s a have-to-win game,” senior utility Zsombor Vincze said. “There shouldn’t be any doubt [on the team].”

Vincze has to sit out the Long Beach game after receiving a red card against Stanford. The “Hungarian Hurricane” is saddened he cannot play, especially because of the manner in which he received the foul.

“It was absolutely ridiculous,” Vincze said. “A terrible, terrible call.”

Beyond missing one of their top players, the Gauchos believe their lack of knowledge of the 49ers may hurt them as well. However, they still remain confident in their ability to win.

“It’s going to be hard to go in there without any prior knowledge of their system,” freshman driver Matt Gronow said. “However, we should beat them quite convincingly.”

After playing the 49ers at home, UCSB then has just one day to recover as they travel to South Central to play the #2 USC Trojans (15-2, 1-2 Pac-10) on Sunday. After starting the season with a 15-game winning streak, the Trojans have lost their last two games and their recent decline has many critics questioning their caliber as a team.

“They are nothing special,” Vincze said. “They play a very good system, but are nothing spectacular.”

Despite the strength of USC, the Gauchos are living by the age-old sports adage of taking matches as they come.

“We are only concentrating on Long Beach,” Vincze said. “When that game is over, then we concentrate on USC.”

Despite having only one day to prepare, UCSB’s confidence remains strong.

“It doesn’t worry me,” Gronow said. “I think it’s better because if I have too long to think about a game I can psych myself out.”

Santa Barbara met the Trojans earlier this year, suffering a loss at a neutral site against USC. After taking a 5-4 lead into the fourth quarter, USC climbed its way out of the hole to salvage a win. This time, though, USC will have the added advantage of playing in its home pool.

Although UCSB believes home pool advantage doesn’t really matter, they acknowledge that the Trojan crowd can be quite ruthless, especially with Santa Barbara’s international players.  Senior utility Milos Golic and Vincze have a habit of swearing in their native language when they make mistakes – a habit that the crowd has tried to imitate that in the past.

“They can make fun of me, but it wouldn’t actually bother me,” Gronow said. “I actually would find it quite funny.”

Lucky for the Gauchos, Vincze will be available to suit up against the Trojans. His 20 goals this season are second only to senior utility Milos Golic, who has 35.

USC’s offense consists of freshman driver Nikola Vavic and freshman 2-meter Jeremy Davie. Together, the Trojan pair’s shots have penetrated the goal a combined 57 times, just two more than the dynamic duo of the Gauchos.