The month of April typically marks the onset of spring, but for the No. 16 UCSB women’s water polo team, it signals the homestretch.
Coming off two consecutive wins in last weekend’s tourney at the University of Hawaii, the Gauchos are charged up to play their final seasonal home game Saturday against Big West rival No. 6 San Diego State.
“We’re riding a high in the conference,” Head Coach Cathy Neushul said. “It’s a good way to play the No. 6 team in the nation.”
With four scheduled games left, Santa Barbara looks to maintain its winning streak to secure a high seed in the Big West tournament, and ultimately a berth for the NCAA Championships.
San Diego State, sitting at 20-8 overall, will try to be an obstacle on that path. The Aztecs have gone 9-1 in their last ten games, with their last loss coming most recently against No. 2 Stanford.
“They have some really talented and experienced seniors on their team that lead their team well,” Neushul said. “We have a game plan for them, and we’ll see what happens.”
SDSU has chronically been a menace for UCSB, taking 13 of the past 14 matches and holding a 39-10 overall record against Santa Barbara. The Gauchos squared off against the Aztecs earlier this year, falling 11-6. However, that experience might bode well for them in this weekend’s matchup.
“Every time we’ve played a team the second time, we’ve won this season,” Neushul said. “Usually the second time the game is much closer and we’re super competitive.”
The Aztecs will arrive at Campus Pool on the heels of a crushing 20-3 loss to Stanford, and UCSB’s time in the film room in addition to a growing motivation to compete may bolster its odds in the matchup. Santa Barbara will be looking for its first win against SDSU since the 2010 season.
“We’re really studying a lot of game film,” Neushul said. “It’s the perfect time in the season for [an upset] to happen.”
With 28 games under their belt, the Gauchos have made strides over the course of the season to prepare for the final, important weeks of their campaign. Looking ahead, the squad feels ready in its preparation.
“I think we’re pretty confident,” Neushul said. “The final three games we had in Hawaii were just superb team efforts and I’m really looking forward to watching us both defensively and offensively as a team.”
Santa Barbara will play its final match at Campus Pool this Saturday at noon.
This article is an online exclusive and did not appear in the print edition of the Daily Nexus.