The #7 UCSB men’s water polo team defeated #10 Pepperdine on Saturday in its last home match of the season, preventing a comeback after jumping to a 5-1 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Senior utility Milos Golic scored the first three goals of the game to give Santa Barbara a 3-0 lead.
Another goal from junior 2-meter Noah Smith and senior utility Zsombor Vincze gave UCSB five goals in the first quarter and the Gauchos pretty much thought the game was over. Pepperdine had other thoughts.
The Gauchos followed one of their best quarters all season with one of their worst quarters, allowing six goals while only scoring two. UCSB conceded their four-goal lead for a tie score of 7-7 at halftime.
“We played amazing in the first quarter,” Golic said. “And then we just stopped. We thought [the] game was over.”
From there the game was a cat-and-mouse affair, as UCSB kept trying to pull away only to have the Waves keep catching up.
The final quarter proved to make the difference, as the Gauchos outscored the Waves 2-1 to hold on to the victory. However, the game was not decided until the final seconds, with Pepperdine holding possession of the ball and threatening to score. Senior goalie Fraser Bunn made a terrific header save to earn Santa Barbara its first win in nearly one month.
Despite the win, some of the team was disappointed with how close the final result was.
“It’s a disappointing game for us,” freshman Matt Gronow said. “Yeah, we won. But Pepperdine is a lower tier team and we were brought down to their level … [that] can’t happen.”
However, as a freshman, it appears Gronow may have been unaware of the senior’s hidden agenda, which he sarcastically revealed after the match.
“After the first quarter we all talked and said let’s make it closer for the crowd because it’s senior day,” senior utility Zsombor Vincze said. “It’s more exciting that way. We also wanted Fraser to make a save in the last few seconds and make it decisive so he can have a good senior day too.”
The senior bid farewell to Campus Pool with two goals, essentially stealing one from another senior.
“It was Bishop’s shot,” Vincze said. “I just wanted to take it away from him.”
With the win, UCSB will take the seventh seed into the Conference Tournament next week where they will play #2 USC. The Gauchos are 0-2 against USC this year, but both games have been close, with the first being decided by a goal in the last minute of the game. UCSB remains confident in its ability to take their momentum into next week.
“We’re looking forward to next week,” Head Coach Wolf Wigo said. “Hopefully we can get a little payback in that game.”