The No. 5 UCSB men’s water polo team travels to undefeated No. 1 USC this weekend for its fifth Mountain Pacific Sports Federation game of the season.
“We have changed up the practice structure a little bit and we have done a little more to prepare for this game,” junior guard Dylan Baliani said. “USC is undefeated at the moment, but if we play well this weekend we can beat them.”
UCSB is coming off a tough 11-7 loss to Pepperdine last Saturday, which brought their record to 1-3 in MPSF play and 15-6 overall. That loss was the third in their last four games, causing the Gauchos to slide down while Pepperdine jumped up to No. 4 in the national rankings.
“I can’t really identify one big weakness, but I’ll say one thing, and that’s we have nothing to lose and they have everything to lose, especially being No. 1 and undefeated. We just have to show up and play our game,” Christian said.
The Gauchos only game against the Trojans this season came in the finals of the SoCal tournament hosted by UCSB in September. In that championship game, USC scored on their first possession and maintained a stranglehold of the scoreboard throughout the game. After the first quarter, the Trojans led 6-2 and continued to use a fierce counter attack against the Gauchos. After a string of emotional and hard fought wins to get to the championship game, UCSB ran out of gas and lost to the Trojans 14-5.
“They have some very talented individuals as well as a really good coach,” senior goalkeeper and captain Myles Christian said. “I think what makes them so good is their overall structure and their ability to move the ball quickly. They are a very disciplined team with an entire playbook.”
This USC game also marks the beginning of a three game road trip against MPSF conference opponents. After that, the Gauchos return home on November 17 to face Long Beach State for their last regular season game.
“Last time we played SC we only had a couple hours to prepare for them. We’ve had a full week of hard training for this rematch, so we’re ready to go,” sophomore attacker Derek Shoemaker said.
Game time is set for 12 p.m. at USC.