No. 11 UCSB women’s water polo team, 19-6 overall and 2-1 in conference play, will head to No. 4 Hawai‘i this upcoming Saturday where they will face the 15-5 Rainbow Wahine.
Santa Barbara will look to pick up their second win in a row, following their 19-8 rout against No. 22 Cal State Northridge. Junior utility Sarah Snyder had four goals in the matchup while senior attacker Sarah Kreiser and freshman utility Caitlyn Snyder had hat tricks of their own. While the offense was stellar against the Matadors, the defense also deserves high praise as both goalkeepers, sophomore goalkeeper Becca Buck and junior goalkeeper Kenzi Snyder, combined for 11 saves in the game.
Hawaii is having a tremendous year and has won six of their last nine matchups. The Rainbow Wahine are led by senior attacker Irene Gonzalez who has 50 goals and 24 assists on the season thus far. Since Gonzalez is a willing passer, she has been a nightmare for her opponents because they are unable to double team her.
Defensively, the Rainbow Wahine are led by freshman goalkeeper Bridget Layburn, who has 86 saves on the year along with an overall record of 10-3 in the games she has played in.
In order for Santa Barbara to pull off the upset, they will need to continue to play stout defense against a high powered Hawaii offense. This means that UCSB’s goalkeepers must continue to rack up saves while also maintaining strong communication with their back line. Both Buck and Snyder have split time in front of the cage and will likely do the same in this upcoming matchup.
“We are lucky that we have two strong keepers,” Head Coach Serela Kay said. “They both push each other and really respect each other. I’m very excited about both of them.”
Moreover, Snyder must continue to be the leader on the offensive end of the pool. She now has 60 goals on the year — a team high — along with six assists. Dating back to last season, she has always been a proficient scorer for the ’Chos, but this season she has really developed as a leader as well.
“She is very special and has really taken her game to another level,” Kay explained. “In anything she does, she excels. You can talk about people being good and great but she is in the elite category.”
Freshman utility Caitlyn Snyder, who is the sister of Sarah Snyder, has been a great surprise for UCSB as she has made an impact on both sides of the pool. With her 25 goals this year, she ranks fourth on the team which has provided stability for Santa Barbara offensively. With so many offensive threats, it makes the squad extremely difficult to defend, especially during power plays.
“Caitlyn’s upside is through the roof,” Kay stated. “She creates on the counter, can score from the perimeter, as well as can fill the center role. Her versatility is extremely valuable and she has a very bright future ahead of her.”
One of the reasons why Santa Barbara has been so successful as of late is because the team is playing with extreme confidence. It is clear that there is an immense amount of trust on the team which has led to their positive results. Despite being an extremely young group, the ’Chos have been able to develop the chemistry necessary to win against difficult opponents.
UCSB is back in action this Saturday, April 13 at 9 p.m. in Hawaii as they look to pick up their 20th win of the season.
A version of this article appeared on p. 9 of the April 11, 2019 edition of the Daily Nexus.