The No. 4 UCSB men’s water polo team had an eye-opening showing over the weekend at the Inland Empire Classic. The Gauchos’ confidence was riding high coming into the weekend’s slate of games following their first place finish at the Triton Invitational last week. The match of the weekend would end up being No. 4 UCSB versus No. 1 USC, a gritty battle until the final whistle. Basically the Gauchos came in hoping to make a statement and prove that they were one of the top teams in the country, and they did just that, coming out on top in the tournament and finishing with a 9-0 record.
The Gauchos opened up their five-game weekend on Saturday when they took on Fresno Pacific. Almost every player got minutes in this matchup as UCSB handled Fresno easily by a score of 25-5. One of the benefits of starting off the season strongly is the leeway that gives the team to experiment with different line-ups and give younger players a chance to get acclimated. This played out in one of the most exciting sequences of the match when redshirt freshman John Rankin and Sean Rosenberg each recorded their first career D-1 goals.
The next two contests went much like their opener, as the Gauchos would go on to defeat Occidental 22-7, and Redlands 18-4. UCSB’s depth was on display again as all 20 field players recorded a goal in one of the three opening day games. As scoring came at ease, it was the way the Gauchos defended and controlled the tempo that was impressive. The fact that they can combine a high-scoring offense with this ability to pick their spots and maintain possession is what makes this UCSB team so dangerous.
Day two of the tournament started off with the heavyweight matchup of UCSB and No. 1 USC. There was a lot of buzz around this matchup as both teams are in serious title contention this year. UCSB jumped out to an early lead after one period, but were only up one at the half.
The second half is when the Gauchos took over. Junior attacker Cole Brosnan was key to the second-half surge, putting two huge shots away. The third-year southpaw out of Newport Beach would finish with five goals, as UCSB beat top-ranked USC 13-9. This was UCSB’s first regular season win versus USC since 1990.
UCSB’s final game of the tournament was against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps. Sophomore center Sam Nangle anchored the team, finishing with four goals, and 11 other Gauchos notched goals. This would would end as a 15-4 win for UCSB. With this win, the team won the tournament and improved to 9-0 on the season, tied for their best start in school history.
The Gauchos will look to make it 11-0 after a double header this Thursday as they match up with Ottawa at 12:00 p.m. and Pepperdine at 5:00 p.m.