The UCSB men’s water polo team will host No. 3 Pacific and honor their graduating seniors this Sunday at their final home game of the season.
The No. 6 Gauchos are currently ranked sixth in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation standings with a split record of 3-3 and hold an overall record of 16-7. The Tigers will be entering Santa Barbara on a confident note after recently moving from second to first place in the MPSF standings. Pacific holds an overall record of 16-3 and is tied for first place with UCLA and Stanford with a conference record of 3-1.
“I think it is a really even match-up and we are excited to play them,” Assistant Coach John Abdou said. “Ironically enough, Pacific and us have the best home fans in the country, so hopefully this Sunday a lot of the Gauchos will come out to support us.”
UCSB has already faced Pacific twice this season, both times ending in extremely close scoring games. They first met earlier this season at the Nor Cal Tournament and Pacific took the win with a final score of 8-7. More recently, the two teams faced off at the So Cal Tournament and Pacific pulled away with another close scoring win of 10-8.
Despite their history against each other, and their current MPSF rankings, both teams have played extremely well in their last few games, proving that all numbers aside, anything is possible this weekend.
UCSB is coming off of a strong weekend of matches against UC Irvine and Stanford. Although they lost against Stanford, both games demonstrated the improvements the team has made in maintaining a strong defense into the second half of the game.
“We don’t really need to worry about scoring goals,” senior attacker Matt Gronow said. “It proves that when we concentrate on our defense, our offense will eventually come.”
The Tigers, on the other hand, posted a statement win over No. 1 USC last weekend with a final score of 10-6. This game showcased the Tigers strong defense, holding the lead against USC from the second period through the rest of the game.
A large portion of the defensive success for both teams is owed to their starting goalkeepers. Sophomore goalkeeper Chris Whitelegge has 249 saves on the season for the Gauchos and senior goalkeeper Alex Malkis leads the Tigers with a total of 126 saves.
“Chris is the backbone of our defense, so when he is hot we are able to get away with a lot more,” Abdou said. “It has been very inspiring watching him play for the last few games.”
This conference game marks the last home game of the season for the Gauchos, and the last time three important teammates will ever play at Campus Pool. The three graduating seniors include Gronow, goalkeeper Jay Lovero and utility Bryce Miller.
“It’s going to be sad. Four years is a long time and it has flew by,” Gronow said. “But with a good crowd it should be a memorable last game … hopefully we can pull a win against the number one [conference] team!”
The game against Pacific will start at noon at the UCSB Campus Pool.
A version of this article appeared on page 6 of November 7, 2013’s print edition of The Daily Nexus.
Photo by Eric Swenson 0f The Daily Nexus.