After riding a four-game winning streak into the weekend, the UCSB women’s water polo team fell short against No. 9 Hawaii in its tightly contested Big West home opener. Despite holding the Rainbow Wahine to just one goal in the second half, the Gauchos fell by a final score of 8-7.
“We started off the game a little slow but the second half was really good for us,” sophomore attacker Bryn Hudson said. “It was really special to see everyone so excited and fired up in the second half. It showed a lot of promise for the rest of the season and even next year.”
The tough loss puts UCSB at 10-12 overall and 1-1 in conference play. Hawaii, who came into the weekend losers of four straight, improved to 15-9 overall with the win and 2-2 in Big West play.
The Gauchos were feeling good coming off of a road win in their first conference match of the season over UC Davis, but they found themselves in a highly-contested shootout early against Hawaii. The Rainbow Wahine scored four goals in the first period compared to three by UCSB and eventually took a 7-4 lead into the half.
After a disappointing first half defensively, the Gauchos put together their most impressive defensive half of the season.
“In the second half our defense was really strong. We were all working really well together,” sophomore utility Holly Smith said. “That was the strongest defense we’ve played thus far this season. A lot of people stepped up, and Miranda Schrader and Jenna Solberg scored vital goals.”
UCSB’s defensive intensity rose to another level in the second half and trailed by just two after outscoring Hawaii 2-1 in the third quarter. The Gauchos were able to score another goal in the fourth quarter, cutting the lead to 8-7.
“Our defense really stepped it up and we all really clicked in the third and fourth,” Hudson said. “We all rallied and came together. We are super young and just getting better every single game.”
Trailing by one goal in the final seconds of regulation, UCSB was denied on two separate point-blank chances by Hawaii’s senior goalie Amy Carlson, preserving the win for the Rainbow Wahine.
“We were very disappointed to lose this game but it showed us exactly what we need to improve on and how we can take on the coming teams,” Smith said. “We are confident going into our next game because each game we’re continuing to improve and working together really well.”
With just three more conference games remaining this season, the Gauchos will now look forward to a match with No. 6 UC Irvine Anteaters, the team tied atop the conference standings.
“We learned a lot from this loss,” Hudson said. “If we run into Hawaii at [the Big West Championships], it’ll definitely be a different outcome.”
The match with Irvine will begin at noon this Saturday at Campus Pool.
This article is an online exclusive and did not appear in the print edition of The Daily Nexus.