The #7 UCSB men’s water polo team (10-10 overall, 1-6 MPSF) is searching for its first win in nearly a month tomorrow at Campus Pool against #10 Pepperdine (9-14 overall, 1-6 MPSF).
“We feel really confident,” sophomore utility Brian Shoemaker said. “We have a lot of experience over them. They are much younger team and our matchups look good.”
Both teams are tied in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation conference standings. This weekend will decide who gets the #7 seed in the MPSF tournament, and the loser will have to play #1 Cal in the first round.
“We are not afraid of playing any team right now,” senior utility Zsombor Vincze said. “We have nothing to lose. We are the underdogs.”
Saturday’s match is also the Gauchos’ last home match of the season; the team will say goodbye to four seniors, including Vincze and utility Milos Golic — arguably their two best players.
“It’s Senior Day,” Shoemaker said. “Everyone will be pumped up to play. [The seniors] will want to come out and have a good experience.”
The team also bids farewell to senior keeper Fraser Bunn and senior 2-meter Brian Bishop, who served as consistent starters and put up solid numbers in their positions.
Vincze is second on the team with 29 goals and earned All-American honors last year. Golic is UCSB’s all-time leading scorer and currently leads the Gauchos with 50 goals, good for second in MPSF. Golic is also on the verge of becoming a four-time All-American and would be the fourth in school history.
“It’s going to feel weird when it all ends,” Golic said. “It will be tough for me. Water polo has been a part of my life for so long … It’s pretty intense.”
Vincze, on the other hand, hasn’t given the last home game of his career much thought yet.
“It won’t hit me until after it’s finished,” Vincze said. “Right now I am trying to focus on the game.”
Despite both Eastern Europeans posting strong performances this season, Santa Barbara has struggled recently. The Gauchos began the season with promise, defeating #3 Stanford earlier in the year along with #5 UCI, while losing a close match to #2 USC. However, the team has not won since Oct. 23, losing its last three games by just one goal each.
“The last few games have been tough losses,” Shoemaker said. “But we’ve been improving. Hopefully we can bring it all together.”
The Gauchos boast an immensely talented team, but a few mistakes have cost them several key games this year.
“If we put together a full four quarters we will win,” Shoemaker said. “The only thing that will kill us is working against ourselves.”
Tomorrow’s match begins at 12 p.m. at Campus Pool.