For the third weekend in a row, the No. 6 UCSB men’s water polo team split its matches with an 11-7 win at home against UC Irvine, and an 11-8 loss against Stanford on the road.
The Gauchos now hold an overall record of 16-7 and a record of 3-3 in conference play, bumping them down from fifth to sixth in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation rankings.
“Overall it was a good weekend. It was good to get our first home win, but also it was a tough road trip,” senior attacker Matt Gronow said. “We do take the positives out of the weekend, we did play well.”
The Gauchos were near equals in Sunday’s game against Stanford, but in the end, a major defensive slip-up cost them the win. The first quarter began with the Gauchos ahead and ended in an even score of 2-2. This tie was quickly broken in the second quarter after the Cardinals scored six goals on the Gaucho defense. Gronow was able to put one point on the board for the Gauchos, but they ultimately entered halftime trailing 8-4.
“It was those goals in the second quarter that really killed us,” Gronow said. “From then on it was an equal game, and we actually dominated offensively.”
The third period began with a Cardinal goal from a five-meter penalty shot, but the offensive momentum took a dramatic turn when the Gauchos fought back, scoring three consecutive goals. This offensive comeback put them within a three-goal range of the Cardinals, but a low-scoring fourth period was not enough to make up for the damage that had been done earlier in the game.
“It was a bit unfortunate, but also a positive in the way we came back,” Gronow said.
The Gaucho offense stood out in their comeback against Stanford, but it was the defense that received praise on Saturday’s game against UC Irvine.
“This game got us back on track defensively,” Head Coach Wolf Wigo said.
In the first period the Gauchos gave up three goals to Irvine, but it was only a matter of time before the defense settled in. As the leader of the defense, sophomore goalkeeper Chris Whitelegge stole the show with an impressive 18 saves, two of which were on five-meter penalty shots.
In addition to defensive performance, the Gaucho offense contributed to the win with goals from seven different players. Two consecutive goals by senior utility Bryce Miller in the second period gave the Gauchos the momentum they needed and secured the lead for the rest of the game.
“We stepped up on both sides,” Whitelegge said. “Defensively it was much better than last week. We gave up 16 goals against USC and only seven to Irvine.”
The Gauchos continue conference play next Sunday with a game against Pacific at noon at Campus Pool.
A version of this article appeared on page 6 of November 4, 2013’s print edition of The Daily Nexus.
Photo by Eric Swenson of The Daily Nexus.