UCSB’s women’s water polo wrapped up its opening weekend with a 3-0 record, beating CSU East Bay on Friday 14-8 before demolishing Sonoma State 15-4 at the Cal Mini Tournament in Berkeley on Saturday.
The Gauchos lost no time in establishing themselves against East Bay, taking a 4-0 lead early in the game that lasted into the second period.
“Especially on the road, [an early lead is] important,” Head Coach Wolf Wigo said. “At home, you have a lot of motivation even if you’re down. It’s really important to take the crowd out of it.”
Two of those goals came from senior guard Kathryn Nelson, who finished with a hat trick for the second time this season.
“It’s not a surprise,” Wigo said. “It’s not a fluke. She’s probably the strongest player on defense we have but she also has a great shot.”
It was in the second period, however, that the Gauchos really put the game away. They added six more goals and only allowed East Bay to score twice.
The Pioneers had no intention of bowing out quietly, however. In the third period, they held the Gauchos to just two goals while scoring two of their own, and in the fourth period they worked through the UCSB defense, scoring four unanswered goals and bringing the score to within four goals at 12-8.
But it was UCSB’s game right from the start, and it did not let go. The defense clamped back down, only allowing one more goal for the rest of the game, and the offense added two insurance goals on the way to a 14-9 win.
Saturday’s game began just as Friday’s had. UCSB jumped out to an early 4-0 lead and once again shut their opponent out in the first period.
“[Defense] is definitely is easier at the beginning in the game when everyone is fresh,” Wigo said.
In this game, however, the Gauchos were more balanced on both offense and defense. The team scored four goals in each of the first three periods and held the Seawolves to just three goals over that span, and added three more goals against Sonoma’s one in the final period to take a dominant 15-4 win.
“We really focused on getting our defense in order,” Wigo said. “We really focused on our game plan.”
The attack was lead by senior center Kristin Kulakowski, who had four goals, and freshman utility Molly Hafferkamp, who had three. Hafferkamp now has seven goals on the season, and is tied with Nelson — who had one goal in Saturday’s game — for first on the team.
“[Molly] is someone who has a lot of potential,” Wigo said. “She has a lot of talent to come in as a freshman and produce like that and I expect her to get even better next season and over the rest of this season.”
The Gauchos have a week off before they face the University of Michigan and Concordia in a double-header next Friday at home. The Michigan game is slated for an 11 a.m. start time, and the game against Concordia will start at 3:30 p.m.