On Sunday the No. 16 UCSB women’s water polo team will host Harvard University in the Gauchos’ first home game since January 29. This will be the first of nine straight home games that will take them through the rest of March and the first week of April.
UCSB is just the first stop for Harvard on their West Coast road trip. They will play five teams total, three of which, including UCSB, are ranked in the top 20. Harvard and UCSB have not met since 2003, when the Gauchos crushed the Crimson 12-4. UCSB is 2-0 all time against Harvard.
However, defeating the Crimson this time around will be no easy task for Santa Barbara, as they face a team with talent on both offense and defense. Junior Aisha Price and senior Devan Kennifer lead the team with 37 and 34 goals, respectively, and Kennifer also leads in assists (22) and steals (49). They also have their division’s current rookie of the week in freshman Ariel Dukes, who stopped 32 shots over their last four games.
The Gauchos will look to defend their home pool with their own group of very talented players. Junior Shelby Haroldson leads the team with 54 points (19 goals and 35 assists), and junior Bryce Winton leads the team in goals scored with 24. On defense they will be led by junior goalkeeper Ruth Milne, the team’s all-time leader in saves and one of the best goalies in the nation. As always, however, they will need strong efforts out of everyone as they open their long home stand.
Last weekend also marked the end of the tournament portion of the Gauchos’ schedule. UCSB will play multiple games in one day only twice more this season. From now on they will, for the most part, be preparing for one opponent at a time.
After the team plays its final home games on April 7, they will go on the road again for two more games before heading to Davis for the Big West Championship. Though it is still over a month away, the Championship is already on their minds.
Sunday’s match against Harvard is set for a 12:00 p.m. start time.