The No. 7 UC Santa Barbara men’s water polo home opener was spoiled last Saturday by an 8-6 overtime loss to No. 14 Concordia, but the Gauchos were able to rebound with a 9-8 victory against Pomona-Pitzer. UCSB is now 8-4 on the season.
“At the end of the day, we missed a couple of wide open shots,” Head Coach Wolf Wigo said. “We got a lot of good video we can watch and make sure we don’t make the mistakes we made today in the future.”
Against Pomona-Pitzer (1-8 overall) the Gauchos finished the first half with a 5-4 lead and increased their lead to 8-5 late in the third quarter. UCSB then surrendered three straight goals and were suddenly faced with the possibility of a second weekend overtime match with just 1:52 to go. However, nine seconds later sophomore Teddy Zhang scored his second goal of the game and provided the Gauchos with the game-winner as their defense held strong the rest of the way.
“We only had a half hour of rest, so I knew this was gonna be a hard game,” Wigo said. “We were subbing a lot more liberally, trying to get some players some playing time who don’t usually get to play. I was hoping we would be able to do that and still win by four or five goals, but that wasn’t the case.”
UCSB had already beaten Pomona-Pitzer twice this season, but neither match was as close of a battle.
“We knew we were a better team than Pomona,” sophomore attacker Matt Gronow — who had a goal in each game — said. “The calls didn’t go our way, the referees weren’t on our side … but we just had to win. They definitely knew how we played and that helped [them], but still, for us to have a game that close — it’s really no excuse.”
Hours earlier UCSB struggled against Concordia (12-2 overall) on offense — especially in the first half — as the Eagles took a 2-1 lead into the third quarter. The Gauchos picked up the pace and tied the game 3-3 heading into the fourth quarter, but were unable to take the lead. Trailing 6-5 with less than a minute left, freshman attacker Derek Shoemaker scored his only goal of the game with 29 seconds left to force overtime.
Unfortunately for the Gauchos, Concordia once again took the lead and did not allow an overtime goal, ultimately getting the 8-6 upset win. It was a tough loss for a young team that has no seniors.
“We know Concordia’s not a pushover,” Gronow said. “We know they have a lot of seniors so they’re really experienced. We have a lot of freshman, so it’s a good learning curve, but it’s disappointing to lose a game like that.”
Up next for the Gauchos is the Southern California Tournament in Long Beach. Their first match is against UC San Diego Saturday Oct. 1.