Nexus File Photo/Daily Nexus

The UC Santa Barbara men’s water polo team is coming off of one of its best seasons in recent history. The team finished with an 18-8 record overall, while going 3-1 against Golden Coast Conference opponents. The Gauchos earned the No. 4 ranking in the country after several notable wins against teams like Long Beach State, Pepperdine and UC Irvine. UCSB saw great success last year thanks to their skilled offensive attack and the team’s unified defense. The Gauchos will look to ride that momentum entering the 2019 season.

Hoping to end the season strong, the Gaucho’s final home game against rival Pepperdine was unfortunately canceled because of the tragic fires that raged down the Southern California coast. Entering the 2019 season, men’s water polo should continue to rack up W’s and climb the ranks, after losing only one senior.

Entering this 2019 season, the Gaucho’s will be led by star senior utility Ivan Gvozdanovic. Coming off of a career year in which he scored 48 goals, Gvozdanovic should continue to see offensive success in his final season at UCSB. Perhaps the part of his game that doesn’t get recognized or talked about enough is his spectacular all-around defense. Gvozdanovic is often given the responsibility of matching up against the opponent’s best scorer, and he does not usually disappoint. Last season he led the team in steals, tallying 37 swipes in only 26 games played.

Another player to look out for this season is the third-year big man out of Chicago, Illinois: Mason McQuet. The 6’3” and 200-pound center defender has turned heads in his first two seasons for his solid all-around game and tenacious defense. Mcquet is well known for his tremendous work ethic in the weight room and the classroom, and it shows in his efficient yet gritty style of play. McQuet should see an increased role amongst the team’s minutes rotation as he enters his third season.

Lastly, watch out for second year transfer student Danny Roland. The 6’3” sophomore out of San Rafael, California transferred from UCLA, the team that won the 2017 NCAA championship. Roland has quick hands and very strong legs, allowing him to cover shooting angles and pick up saves. Roland played for a very well-respected NorCal club team known as SHAQ (Sleepy Hollow Aquatic Club). His time in the club pipeline has helped prepare him to compete against the high-level athletes at the D-1 level.

Difficult matchups dot the UC Santa Barbara schedule. UCSB is scheduled to play nine games against teams that finished last season ranked in the top 20 nationally, including one game against each member of last year’s top four. Those four — USC, Stanford, UCLA, and Cal — were responsible for  seven of UCSB’s  eight losses last year, so there will be opportunities for both revenge and resume building.

The top-ranked team on the UCSB schedule, however, is Golden Coast Conference foe Pepperdine, who visit Campus Pool on Sept. 19. Just under a month later, on Oct. 6, the Gauchos will play host to USC, the defending national champions. The Trojans roughed up UC Santa Barbara in two separate games last season, so the early October clash will serve as a test of UCSB’s mettle heading into the bulk of conference play.

The Gauchos will take on each one of their conference foes after facing USC, beginning with the University of the Pacific on Oct. 19 and ending with Pepperdine, again, on Nov. 16. Pacific was the only non-top five team to beat UCSB last season, setting up the game at Campus Pool as another chance for UC Santa Barbara revenge.