The No. 5 UCSB men’s water polo team looks to move up in the standings Sunday with a win against No. 6 Pepperdine.
With a record of 13-7 overall and 1-2 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, the Gauchos sit in sixth place, one spot behind the Waves, who are 12-7 overall and 2-2 in conference.
“It’s a big game and a big rivalry,” junior attacker Jesse Gillespie said. “Both teams have similar quality teams and similar game plans.”
These two teams met this year once before on Sept. 18 with Pepperdine emerging victorious in a close 7-6 win.
“We know we can hang with them,” junior goalkeeper Myles Christian said. “If we just focus on the small things, minimize mistakes and have a good collective effort, we should come away with a win.”
In the match, UCSB found themselves in a hole that would be too deep to climb out of, going down 3-1 at the end of the first quarter and 5-1 by halftime.
“We have to go in with the intensity that we had against USC and get super fired up,” Christian said. “We need to not allow ourselves to get in a hole because in these conference games and at an away pool, it’s hard to battle back. We definitely want to go in there and score the first goal.”
The Gauchos mounted a comeback with the help of Christian, who tallied nine saves. Christian currently ranks second in the MPSF in saves per game with 10.73.
“Myles has been playing great game after game,” Gillespie said. “He’s been so consistent. He gives confidence to our defense, which leads to our offense.”
Last weekend, UCSB split their matches, defeating Long Beach before falling to USC. The Gauchos were able to hang with the Trojans in the first quarter, but struggled with their pivotal six on five plays, only converting 3-13.
“The biggest problems for us were our six on fives,” Christian said. “You’re not going to win playing that bad on your man-ups, especially against USC, who has the best defense in the conference.”
While both teams will depend on multiple players to contribute offensively this weekend, Santa Barbara must be aware of two Waves: junior attacker Matthew De Trane and senior attacker Andrew Milcovich. Both have found the back of the cage 28 times this season. In their last matchup, De Trane had three goals.
“Milcovich is their best player on the perimeter,” Gillespie said. “They also have some strong two meter men, so we’re going to have to be prepared to drop back but make sure we’re pressing on Milcovich.”
Sunday’s game begins at 1 p.m. in Malibu.