No. 5 UCSB men’s water polo takes a break from MPSF play for its final non-conference game of the season Friday against No. 9 UCSD.
The Gauchos are 11-6 overall with a 0-1 conference record. At 11-5, the Tritons have won three of their last five, although they’re coming off a tough overtime loss to No. 12 Long Beach State.
“They’ve been playing really well and the last thing we want to do is overlook them,” Head Coach Wolf Wigo said. “We’re going to be playing at their home pool and they’ll have a huge crowd.”
Santa Barbara is also coming off a heartbreaking defeat to No. 1 Stanford, who came from behind to win with four seconds remaining in the match. Yet, the Gauchos learned they can compete with any team in the country.
“We need to not be comfortable playing a close game against [UCSD],” junior goalkeeper Myles Christian said. “We need to get the defensive stops we were getting against Stanford and execute offensively, and it should be an easy game for us. There’s no reason we shouldn’t be six to seven goals better than this team.”
These two teams squared off Oct. 1 in the opening game of the SoCal Tournament. UCSB emerged with a 15-9 victory. The game saw a roaring start by the Gauchos, who tallied six first-quarter goals.
“A quick start will be even more important [Friday],” Wigo said. “We want to take the crowd out of the game, and the best way to do that it is to score some early goals.”
Sophomore goalkeeper Jay Lovero anchored the defense for the Gauchos with 12 saves. Offensively, 11 different players found the back of the cage. Freshman utility Nick Tomasello tallied three goals en route to leading the Gauchos in goals scored for the game.
“Having multiple score seems to be the trend for our team,” sophomore 2-meter defender Scott Bishop said. “We don’t think who needs to shoot the ball; it’s just who has the open shot.”
UC San Diego’s superstar is senior driver Graham Saber, who totals 47 goals on the campaign. In their previous matchup, Saber scored four of his team’s five goals.
“We have to realize that he’s a solid shooter and that he’s going to put the ball away when he’s open,” Christian said. “We need to favor him a bit and make him pass the ball.”
The match against UCSD begins at 6 p.m. Friday night at Canyonview Pool in La Jolla. UCSB then returns home Saturday to play against their alumni at Campus Pool at 12 p.m.