The No. 7 UCSB men’s water polo team hosts No. 6 Long Beach State this Saturday for their final regular season Mountain Pacific Sports Federation game of the year.
After starting the season with 12 wins in their first 14 games, the Gauchos have now lost six of their last seven. In its last game, UCSB capped a tough two day road trip with a 9-13 loss to Cal, dropping its record to 1-6 in the MPSF and 15-9 overall.
Santa Barbara currently ranks eighth in the conference and will retain that spot regardless of this weekend’s outcome, giving them the final playoff spot.
Long Beach State, on the other hand, is riding a two game win streak and currently sits at 3-4 in the MPSF and 21-7 overall.
“We have already secured ourselves a spot in the
tournament as the eighth seed with a win or a loss this weekend,” senior captain and goalkeeper Myles Christian said. “With that being said, it comes down to pride and wanting to win this weekend. We have been in a slump and I know that this will be my last home game, so it would be nice to finish it off with a win.”
With junior attacker Evan Dellinger — UCSB’s leading scorer with 42 — battling an injury, the Gauchos have had to find offensive production from other players. One player who has stepped us his game recently is sophomore attacker Eric Van de Mortel. Van de Mortel is now third on the team with 28 goals and has led UCSB in scoring the past three games.
“I have been a little more aggressive in my attacking,” Van de Mortel said. “I have been practicing only shots I would take in games, while trying to think about the situation I am usually in. So like altering my shot as if someone is blocking even if there’s nobody there when I am practicing. Also, I have just been trying to work as hard as possible for these last few weeks.”
Matt Gronow is another option. The junior attacker ranks second on the team and has tallied 41 goals on the year, just one behind Dellinger.
As this is the final home game for the Gauchos, UCSB will recognize and honor its two seniors: captains Brian Shoemaker and Christian.
“I’m sad that is has to come to an end because I’ve had a lot of great memories playing in that pool,” Shoemaker said. “I’m going to do everything I can to come out with a win.”
Game time for Saturday’s game against Long Beach State is set for 12 p.m. at Campus Pool.
A version of this article appeared on page 5 of November 16, 2012’s print edition of the Nexus.