The season didn’t go quite as the No. 15 UCSB women’s water polo team hoped it would as it missed out on the NCAA Tournament.

The Gauchos finished their season with a win in their last game over No. 18 UC Davis, earning them a fifth-place finish in the Big West Championships. However, just two days prior to their final victory, a quarterfinal loss to No. 13 Long Beach State ended Santa Barbara’s hopes of qualifying for the NCAA Tournament and challenging for a national title..

On a team made up almost entirely of freshmen and sophomores, though, the challenge of playing college water polo at the highest level was always going to be a difficult one to overcome.

This could be seen early in the season for the Gauchos as they began the year with a disappointing 5-11 record.

As it was predicted, though, UCSB was able to turn its season around once it built its chemistry, highlighted by a perfect 4-0 record in the month of March and a season-high five-game winning streak. They eventually finished the season with a 12-15 overall record and a 2-4 mark in Big West games.

Already stacked with a multitude of young talents, this year’s recruiting class was never going to be as big as the previous year.

“It’s not a huge class. We had 15 freshmen last year so we weren’t looking to add a ton of people,” Head Coach Wolf Wigo said. “We wanted to [fill] a couple of positions with a couple of talented players.”

Local Santa Barbara High School student Elizabeth Hendrix is the first of the recruits.

“[She’s] a great shooter and can definitely contribute to the team,” Wigo said.

The next is Madison Delgado out of Santiago High School. Delgado was a key player on her club team Xtreme, also known as the CBU Lancers, where she was a constant goal-scoring threat.

“Madison [is] a strong club player with a ton of experience,” Wigo said. “[She and Hendrix] are both attackers.”

Another one of the recruits that have been named thus far is Tina Samson, another northern Californian product.

“[Tina] is a crafty player, a great shooter and a hard worker,” Wigo said. “She can definitely help us out as well.”

With such a young squad, UCSB knows that it is going to have a number of options in terms of its rotations in the pool for the next several years.

However, the team can still only have seven players in the water at a time, so the new players will have to work hard in order to earn their playing time.

Choosing who gets to play and who doesn’t is going to be a difficult choice to make, but in the end, Wigo believes that this can only help the team improve.

“It’s a young team and there’s going to be a lot of fighting and competition for the playing spots, but that’s a good thing,” Wigo said. “They can all potentially play. Everyone has been good teammates and it’s been a fun, competitive year, and we’ll look for that to continue next year.”


A version of this article appeared on page 6 of May 15, 2014 print edition of the Daily Nexus.

Photo by Dustin Harris of the Daily Nexus.