It has not been an easy start to the season for the No. 18 UCSB women’s water polo team, but after going 3-1 this past weekend in the Cal Lutheran Tournament, things are looking up.
After a narrow 11-10 defeat to No. 16 Michigan, the Gauchos won each of their next three games over Fresno Pacific, Chapman and Villanova by double digits.
“We’re definitely getting better,” sophomore attacker Bryn Hudson said. “Right now our priority is defense. Where we’re struggling is we’re trying to figure each other out and work as a team on the defensive end. The offense will come with the defense.”
With the wins, UCSB improves to 8-11 overall with just one game remaining before Big West play begins. Michigan went undefeated on the weekend, improving to 7-10 overall. Fresno Pacific went 2-2 and is now 5-10 on the year. Chapman is now 3-3 overall after going 1-2 in the tournament and Villanova finds itself at 3-11 after picking up its first win of the year.
In their first match on Friday, the Gauchos took on the Wolverines looking to prove that they were a better team than their record might suggest. UCSB has struggled against the nation’s top teams so far this year, but it came out strong in this one with goals from junior utility Lauren Martin and sophomore attacker Bryn Hudson to take a 2-1 lead into the second quarter.
Both teams fired back and forth at each other, answering every run that was made. With the game close in the fourth quarter, goals by Martin, sophomore utility Jessie Porter and freshman attacker Carly Christian helped send the game into overtime.
“Lauren did a really good job. She drew a lot of ejections for us and gave us a lot of 6-on-5 opportunities and penalty shots,” Hudson said of her teammate. “We just unfortunately couldn’t really convert, so that’s definitely a jumping off point the next couple weeks. We have a lot of time to work on our 6-on-5s because that’s kind of our weakness.”
In the extra period, Porter was able to put away one more goal for the Gauchos, her third in the game. However, her team fell just short, giving up two overtime goals on its way to an 11-10 loss.
“We’ve been working on a lot of things that we need to do win games, like not letting other teams score out of two meters,” Hudson said. “We definitely struggled with that, but you live and you learn so hopefully that won’t happen again and we’ll get better.
Going into its second game of the day against Fresno Pacific, UCSB came out on fire in the first half, scoring six goals in the second quarter to take an 8-1 lead. Thanks to their hot start, the Gauchos cruised to an easy 14-4 victory.
Both Hudson and sophomore attacker Mackenzie Baber led the way offensively with three goals each while sophomore goalkeeper Mackenzie Brokaw had nine saves.
“We had a rough game against Michigan so I think that kind of sparked a fire under everyone,” Hudson said. “We wanted to prove that we were really better than all the other teams there so that definitely helped as a motivator.”
On Saturday, UCSB took on a Chapman team that had gotten off to a hot start to its season after allowing just two goals in its first two games. The Gauchos showed why they have one of the best teams in the nation though, as they completely dominated on their way to a 17-1 victory.
Martin and freshman attacker Brenna Thomas each put away four goals to lead UCSB to its largest win of the season.
Playing against a Villanova team off to a miserable start to the year, the Gauchos took advantage of the opportunity to get more of their players involved. Strong defense and a balanced offensive attack allowed UCSB to score a season-high 18 goals while giving up just five.
No player scored more than two goals in this game and 12 players contributed at least one.
The Gauchos will have three weeks off before playing their next game at home against Harvard on March 22 at 12:00 p.m. at Campus Pool.
A version of this article appeared on page 10 of March 3, 2014’s print edition of The Daily Nexus.
Photo by Peter Vandenbelt of The Daily Nexus.