A solid 9-6 win on the road against No. 7 Long Beach State and a well-fought 16-10 loss against No. 1 USC at home secure the UCSB men’s water polo team a seat in the top six for the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation conference.
No. 6 UCSB split its matches this weekend, leaving it with an overall record of 15-6 and 2-2 in the MPSF conference.
“We can take a lot of positives from this weekend, a great road win and an overall good offensive performance,” Assistant Coach John Abdou said.
Sunday’s game against USC got off to a fast start with three consecutive goals by the Trojans. UCSB answered back with a quick goal from sophomore attacker Kevin Cappon, followed by another Trojan goal. Cappon responded by scoring his second goal of the day and then senior attacker Matt Gronow followed with two consecutive goals to bring the Gauchos within reach. The back and forth offense of the first period ended in a close 6-4 Trojans lead.
UCSB’s strong offensive momentum carried into the second period, but it was equally countered by USC’s quick offensive return. Cappon scored his third goal of the game, and junior attacker Eric Van de Mortel scored two goals of his own, one resulting from a rebounded penalty shot. The second period ended with another close score of 9-7.
The second half of the game slowed down offensively with the Gauchos scoring only three goals in comparison to USC’s seven. Van de Mortel put two more points on the board, and Cappon scored another goal in the final quarter giving them both a total of four goals each for the game. USC’s leading scorer, senior two-meter Connor Virjee, scored five goals total, contributing to the Trojans 16-10 win.
“There are definitely some positives, we shot the ball really well today,” Head Coach Wolf Wigo said. “Nobody has scored more than 12 goals against us all season, so that is disappointing.”
Saturday’s game at Long Beach had a more promising result with a strong offensive attack early on, and a final score of 9-6.
“This weekend was big, especially Saturday. It clinched us in the top six of our conference so we won’t find ourselves in a dogfight later on,” Cappon said.
Long Beach jumped out in front with the first goal of the game. Less than a minute later Van de Mortel made UCSB’s offensive presence known, tying the game 1-1. Within the first half of the game, two goals each from Van de Mortel and Cappon, and a single goal from senior attacker Matt Gronow and sophomore attacker Ryan Baliani gave the Gauchos a 7-3 lead.
A low scoring third quarter allowed for the UCSB defense to shine. Long Beach was able to score one goal, but UCSB sophomore goalkeeper Chris Whitelegge dominated the attention with a remarkable penalty block. Each team scored two goals in the fourth quarter, but the Gauchos secured the win with a final score of 9-6. Van de Mortel led the Gauchos with three goals total.
Whitelegge continues to lead the Gaucho defense, registering 10 saves in each game this weekend and 218 saves on the season.
Long Beach now holds a record of 17-6 overall and 1-1 in conference while the USC Trojans add to their dominant record of 20-1 overall and 2-0 in conference.
UCSB continues play Saturday against UC Irvine at noon at Campus Pool.
A version of this article appeared on page 6 of October 28, 2013’s print edition of The Daily Nexus.
Photo by Kevin Yang of The Daily Nexus.