The No. 8 UCSB men’s water polo team (8-4 overall) has a busy weekend ahead of it, with four games in two days at the Southern California Tournament hosted by Long Beach State. The first game of the tournament will be played against No. 12 UCSD (8-2 overall).

“They’re going to come out strong,” junior attacker Jesse Gillespie said. “They’re ranked much lower than us, so they’re the underdogs, but we’re going to come out like we’re the underdogs.”

Leading the attack for the Tritons is senior driver Graham Saber, who has 33 goals on the season.

“They’ve always been a strong team with some pretty solid shooters,” junior goalkeeper Myles Christian said. “We need to think about defense first, focus on small things and not get ahead of ourselves.”

Christian currently ranks second in the MPSF with 73 saves, and is third in the conference with 11.68 saves per game.

Sophomore attacker Matt Gronow anchors the Gaucho offense with 26 goals.  Gronow is also tied with Gillespie in assists, with eight on the season.

Depending on the results of the first game, Santa Barbara will either face Air Force or No. 2 UCLA.  The Gauchos recently lost to UCLA in the NorCal Tournament 13-10 on Sept. 17.

“We want to do better than we did in the NorCal Tournament, where we placed seventh, because it’s basically the same teams,” sophomore 2-meter defender Scott Bishop said.  “Two weekends ago we came close to beating UCLA and we know we can beat them.”

Last weekend, UCSB battled in two very close games, being edged out by Concordia in an overtime loss 8-6.  The Gauchos quickly rebounded for a 9-8 win against Pomona-Pitzer in a match later that day. It was only the third and fourth time of the season that UCSB was held under 10 goals. Despite this fact, UCSB still leads the MPSF in goals scored during this season with 163.

“The way the last two games went, we’ve got a fire under our butt and we don’t want to give up losses we shouldn’t,” Gillespie said. “They’re both games we should’ve won by several goals.”

In last year’s SoCal Tournament, Santa Barbara placed fourth, defeating Concordia and Stanford before dropping their last two games to top-ranked USC in a one-point loss and UC Irvine 8-4.

Matches begin this Saturday in Long Beach and Los Alamitos at 9:50 a.m. The Gauchos don’t return home until October 15.