The No. 3 UCSB men’s water polo team split their two Mountain Pacific Sports Federation games over the weekend, losing 10-5 to UCLA on Saturday and beating UC Irvine 13-7 on Sunday, bringing their record to 15-5 on the season and 1-2 in MPSF play.
On Saturday, against the No. 2 Bruins, the Gauchos started hot by scoring three goals from junior 2-meter Teddy Zhang, sophomore utility Brendan McElroy and sophomore utility Bryce Miller in the opening quarter.
Entering the second quarter leading 3-2, UCSB’s offense went cold and UCLA shut them out until McElroy scored his second goal with 3:59 left in the fourth quarter.
“We were playing our game in the first half leading 3-2, then we broke down offensively making uncharacteristic mistakes that led to easy transition goals for them,” sophomore attacker Derek Shoemaker said.
During the Gauchos’ scoreless second and third quarters, the Bruins capitalized on penalties and ejections to score seven goals and enter the fourth quarter with a 9-3 lead.
In the fourth quarter, the Gauchos managed to score twice but could not complete the comeback and lost 10-5, bringing their record to 14-5 overall, while marking their conference record at 0-2 to start MPSF play.
“We have been pretty consistent this year, but against UCLA our passing was off and our power play was off as well,” Head Coach Wolf Wigo said. “On the flip side, I really liked how everyone stayed positive and how we rebounded against UC Irvine.”
In the Sunday game at Irvine, UCSB rebounded nicely, coming off of a loss with a big 13-7 win over the No. 6 Anteaters. Senior goalkeeper and team captain Myles Christian had a season-high 18 saves to stifle the high-powered UCI offense.
“It was definitely one of my top personal performances of my career, which is always a good confidence booster,” Christian said. “It was nice to have this performance in a game that we really needed to win, especially coming off the loss [Saturday] against UCLA.”
UCSB now stands tied for fifth in the MPSF after two weeks of play. While the Gauchos are 6-3 overall at home this season, in conference, UCSB is 0-2 in home matches.
“Myles has been a solid force in the cage for us this season,” Wigo said. “I’m pretty sure he hasn’t had a bad game this whole season, and it’s nice to see him succeed.”
In comparison to the UCLA loss, UCSB played a much more consistent and effective offense throughout the game. The Gauchos’ deep roster and balanced attack was evidenced by having nine different players score against the Anteaters as well.
“We played to our centers like Zhang … against UCI. As a result, we were able to draw a lot of ejections,” junior 2-meter Dylan Baliani said. “Against UCLA we all played a little bit selfish and we were so pumped up, we lost our focus on the game plan.”
UCSB’s next game is against Pepperdine at Campus Pool this Saturday at noon.