The No. 6 UCSB men’s water polo team fell to No. 3 UCLA with a final score of 10-7 in its last conference game of the season this weekend.
Santa Barbara maintains its No. 6 ranking with an overall record of 16-9, and a conference record of 3-5, and the Bruins advance to first-place with an overall mark of 26-2 and a conference record of 6-1. UCLA, Stanford and Pacific are all currently tied for first in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation standings.
“We were able to hang with them at their own school,” sophomore goalkeeper Chris Whitelegge said. “We lost by three, so hopefully we can fix our mistakes and see them again at MPSF in two weeks.”
A high-scoring first quarter kicked off an exciting game. One goal from sophomore attacker Kevin Cappon and two from senior attacker Matt Gronow put the Gauchos ahead 3-2. Shortly after, UCLA drew an exclusion penalty against UCSB and one of the leading Bruins offensive players in junior attacker Paul Reynolds tied the game at 3-3.
The second period began with three consecutive offensive possessions for the Gauchos, but it was UCLA that was able to put the first goal on the board. This scoring momentum continued and UCLA opened the second period with three goals, holding UCSB scoreless. With one minute left in the period, sophomore two-meter Nicholas Jordan broke the dry spell for the Gauchos, bringing the score to 6-4.
Another quick attack from the Bruins opened the third quarter, giving them a dramatic four-goal lead with a score of 8-4. Jordan was able to deliver another important goal late in the game for the Gauchos, giving him his 26th of the season, and bringing the Gauchos within reach.
“It was exciting,” Jordan said. “I was just trying to do what I could for the team, but I give credit to my teammates for setting me up for those goals.”
UCSB found an offensive rhythm late in the game, closing the gap against UCLA. Senior utility Bryce Miller and junior attacker Eric Van De Mortel each scored, bringing the count to 9-7.
In the fourth quarter, it appeared that the Gauchos were gaining confidence with each possession. They were pressuring on the counter attack, and forcing UCLA to make mistakes. As a result, UCSB was given a power play opportunity, but UCLA’s freshman goalkeeper Garrett Danner denied the goal. With 3:30 left in the game, Reynolds delivered a lob shot over Whitelegge’s head and secured the Bruins’ victory with a final score of 10-7.
“It was good. We made some mistakes and we paid for that, but overall we did pretty well,” Whitelegge said.
The Gauchos end their season on a three-game losing streak, but have plenty of positives to move forward from.
“Our effort level and heart were definitely here, we just need to focus on playing 30 full seconds of defense,” Whitelegge said. “We will be able to take care of that, it’s looking good for the MPSF conference.”
The Gauchos will travel to Stockton for the MPSF tournament in two weeks.
A version of this article appeared on page 6 of November 18, 2013’s print edition of The Daily Nexus.
Photo by Eric Swenson of The Daily Nexus.