After two games in two days, the No. 7 UCSB men’s water polo team heads into the weekend having to play three more games over the next two days, including a doubleheader today at Campus Pool against La Verne and Whittier before heading on the road to face No. 3 USC.
The Gauchos head into their first matchup boasting a 9-5 overall record, 1-0 in conference play, after a convincing win over San Jose State last night. Unranked, La Verne currently sits at 2-11 while unranked Whittier College comes in at a solid 11-7 overall. The Trojans are the best of the bunch with a 14-1 record, are currently winners of five straight matches and boast a 3-0 home record.
Saturday will mark the second doubleheader UCSB hosts as it will face La Verne at 9:00 a.m. and then take on Whittier at 2:30 p.m. Santa Barbara has never lost a match against either team in the program’s history, as it is 10-0 against the Leopards and 8-0 facing the Poets. The last time it faced either team was in 2013.
Key players for La Verne include junior driver Rey Julian Castillo who scored three goals in its last matchup against Loyola Marymount. Before that, he scored another hat-trick against Whittier College as well.
Whittier has been doing good as of late, winning its last four games by an average of 6.5 goals per contest. It is coming off a weekend at the Gary Troyer Memorial Tournament finishing 4-0 with wins over Fresno Pacific, Fordham, McKendree and La Verne. Senior two-meter Wedge Molthen played a huge role scoring 10 goals in the wins over Fresno Pacific and Fordham.
For USC, the Edwards brother, Blake, and Lachlan, have been killing it. The two juniors are first and second in goals scored with 27 and 24, respectively.
The Trojans have dominated all-time against the Gauchos with 69-12-2 overall record and with wins in the past 52 meetings after a 14-3 win in this year’s home opener. Last year, USC beat UCSB 10-8 at the SoCal Tournament and then barely beat the Gauchos in a 6-5 MPSF conference match-up later that year.
USC certainly seems like another team that could dominate the Gauchos, but of course, after the Gauchos valiant effort against UCLA a couple of days ago, it will be interesting to see how that confidence goes into this match-up as well.
UCSB still has a very dominant team itself led by two players in particular, senior attacker Reed Cotterill and junior attacker Shane Hauschild. Cotterill ranks first on the team in goals with 27 and points with 33. Hauschild ranks third on the team in goals with 19 and is second on the team in total points with 30.
Senior attacker Mitchell Hamilton is also a key player for the Gauchos. This season he hasn’t been as productive as last year, but he has contributed mightily in the leadership department and scored two goals last night against San Jose State.
Playing three matches in two days will be a difficult challenge, but one UCSB seems ready to accomplish. While it may be easy to overlook unranked Whittier and La Verne, Santa Barbara knows it can’t afford a loss as the season gets late and since the Golden Coast Conference winner does not have an automatic NCAA bid.
The Gauchos take on La Verne today at 9 a.m. and Whittier at 2:30 p.m. at Campus Pool. They travel to USC tomorrow to take on the Trojans at 1 p.m. at Uytengsu Aquatics Center.