After a merited break from back-to-back weekends of tournaments, the No. 11 UCSB women’s water polo team will head south this weekend to compete in the Triton Invitational in San Diego.

“A weekend off was well deserved and much needed,” Head Coach Serela Kay said. “We are recovered and ready for the Triton Invite.”

Santa Barbara is going into its third invitational of the season with a 6-3 overall record after a triple-win at Michigan including two overtime games.

In their first match of the weekend the Gauchos will face No. 21 Marist who is on the prowl for a much-needed win after three consecutive losses at the Brown Bruno Classic. However, UCSB is aware that this will be no easy game.

“Marist is a good team from the MAAC conference with a handful of international players along with a dominant force in the paint,” Coach Kay said. “They defeated SDSU in Michigan 8-6 and are expected to be a tough competitor.”

The Red Foxes count on freshman utility Katie Tijerina who was named Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Women’s Water Polo Defensive Player of the Week and freshman Susan Cantoni was named MAAC Rookie of the Week after their outstanding performance at the Brown Bruno Invitational.

Tijerina had three drawn ejections this past weekend along with 10 steals and one field block in four matches against No. 4 Hawaii. Cantoni contributed four goals, five assists, one steal and two field blocks this weekend.

In order to fair well against the No. 21 team in the country it will be important for the Gauchos to be able to play great defense, something they have been focusing on all week.

“The main focus was transition defense.” Coach Kay said.

This will be critical to help the Gauchos avoid going into another overtime match, or even to maintain a lead.

On the opposite side of the pool, Santa Barbara is very efficient in taking advantage of the first couple of possessions in the game and of power plays.

UCSB’s team counts on impactful individuals such as senior center Lauren Martin who has led the team in scoring with 18 goals. Martin scored the winning goal in the sudden death overtime match against Hartwick at the Michigan Invitational. That weekend she finished with seven goals including a career high for goals scored in a single game with four.

Senior attacker Bryn Hudson and junior utilities Miranda Schrader and Taylor Shore have also helped accounting for a combined 33 goals. The solid offense has helped the team achieve double digit wins in five of its first nine matches to start the season.

The first game will be crucial for Santa Barbara’s performance in the tournament since it will dictate whether they advance to the next round and fight for a high ranking or fight for ninth place.

The Triton invitational will be hosted by UC San Diego at the Canyonview pool where the Gauchos will face-off against Marist at 12:00 p.m.