After suffering a tough loss at the hands of No. 9 Hawaii last Saturday, the UCSB women’s water polo team is headed towards a busy weekend when it hosts No. 6 UC Irvine on Saturday before traveling to No. 12 Long Beach State on Sunday.
The Gauchos have picked their record up after going 5-1 in their last six games and now stand at 10-12 overall and 1-1 Big West. Irvine is currently tied for first after starting 2-0 in the Big West and owns the conference’s second best overall record at 18-7. Long Beach State is right behind Irvine with a 17-8 record on the year, but a double-overtime loss to Hawaii last month leaves the 49ers at 1-0 in the Big West.
UCSB was disappointed to drop a game at home after winning its first conference game on the road against No. 16 UC Davis last month, but it will have an even tougher test at home this weekend when Irvine, the highest ranked team in the conference, comes to town.
If the Gauchos want to slow down the Anteaters, they will have to try and stop a powerful and balanced offense which has seen four players average well over one goal per game this season.
Redshirt junior utility Danielle Warde leads the way with 43 goals in 25 games while sophomore center McKenna Mitchell is right behind her with 41. Senior attackers Jessy Cardey and Hannah Croghan have contributed 39 and 34 goals, respectively, while no other player on the team has scored more than 17.
Junior goalkeeper Jillian Yocum has been solid all year at the back against some of the nation’s best teams, averaging 6.6 saves per game and allowing the opposition to score double digits just four times in 22 starts.
Against Long Beach, UCSB will face a similar offensive monster as the 49ers have averaged just over 10.04 goals per game, compared to 11.08 for Irvine and 10.27 for the Gauchos.
The 49ers are led by the duo of Chelsea Parks and Coriann Snyder, who have put away 42 and 40 goals this season, respectively. The two seniors have combined to score the second-most goals by any tandem in school history and are both in the Top 10 of individual scoring as well.
For the Gauchos, worrying about Parks and Snyder on the defensive side isn’t the only problem. The 49ers strong defense has allowed just 5.9 goals per game to opposing teams.
With only three games remaining in the regular season, the two games that UCSB plays this weekend are extremely important.
While last weekend’s game resulted in a loss, an excellent second half is something that the Gauchos will look to carry with them into this weekend. After giving up seven goals to Hawaii in the first half, Santa Barbara conceded just one in the entire second half.
Both Saturday’s match-up against Irvine and Sunday’s contest at Long Beach are set for noon.
A version of this article appeared on page 7 of April 10, 2014’s print edition of The Daily Nexus.
Photo by Peter Vandenbelt of The Daily Nexus.