The No. 6 UCSB men’s water polo team hosts No. 2 Stanford on Sunday in a conference match between two of the top college teams in the nation.
UCSB, currently 9-7 overall and 0-2 in the MPSF, is coming off a difficult weekend at the SoCal Tournament at UCLA, where it finished in eighth place after going 1-3 with a win over No. 12 Pepperdine and losses to No. 4 USC, No. 8 UCSD and No. 7 Pacific.
“We are not dwelling on this past weekend,” senior goalie Chris Whitelegge said. “We aren’t particularly happy with how we played and we had time to evaluate, but now it’s time to move on.”
Stanford comes in with a 15-2 overall record and 1-0 in conference. The Cardinal finished the SoCal Tournament in third place after an 11-7 loss to No. 3 California in the semifinals. Stanford’s only previous league match came on Oct. 4 with a victory over No. 9 UC Irvine.
So far in the year, the Cardinal have been impressive with wins over UCLA, as well as victories over California, Pacific, and UCSD, three teams which have beaten UCSB this season. An advantage the Gauchos carry, however, is Stanford playing against USC the day before.
“We’ve seen them play at tournaments and they’re a good team,” said Whitelegge. “We played them over the summer and last spring and had some good matches.”
Key players for Stanford will be junior driver Bret Bonanni, freshman driver Cody Smith and redshirt sophomore two meters Griffin Bolan. Bonanni has 54 goals this season and led the Cardinal in scoring in the SoCal tournament with 17 goals over five matches. In goal for Stanford will be sophomore Drew Holland; Holland came up huge in Stanford’s win over UCLA on Sunday with 10 saves in the match. His season-high 14 saves came in a win over UCSD on Sept. 20.
“They’re a beatable team. I think we match up well,” senior utility Chase Racich said. “They are a fast team and one of our strengths is being able to slow teams down. I think we have a good chance to beat them.”
UCSB will need its top players to perform in order to give its team a chance to upset the Cardinal. Freshman attacker Shane Hauschild leads the team with 21 goals and 34 points. Senior utility Brendan McElroy ranks first on the team with 15 assists and is second with 27 points. Close behind are Racich and junior attacker Kevin Cappon who both have 25 points. Whitelegge has started all 15 games for the Gauchos this season and averages 9.7 saves per game.
“I think we have a better chance of doing well in the one game format,” Racich said. “We do well when we are pumped up and our home fans are great, we get crazy amounts of support.”
The match will commence at 12 p.m. on Sunday at Campus Pool.