Tommy Fellner passes the ball to a teammate. Nexus File Photo.

The No. 1 UCSB men’s water polo team travels south this weekend to Spieker Aquatic Center at UCLA to compete in the SoCal Invitational. The three-day series of games begins this Friday when the team takes on No. 20 San Jose State. The Gauchos’ opponent in their succeeding games will be determined based off of Friday’s first match.

San Jose State (SJSU) will be coming into this match looking to pull off a huge upset. The Spartans enter the contest with a 2-6 regular season record but are trending upwards with wins in their last two matchups against Whittier College and Ottawa University – Arizona. 

UCSB will be trying to continue its historic run. The team currently holds an astounding 13-0 record and has claimed the No. 1 spot in the national rankings for the first time since 1979. 

To reach this point, Santa Barbara has been eliminating top teams weekly and climbing the ranks the entire season. They started off their 2019 campaign as the No. 7 team in the nation. Since those preseason ranks were released, they have beaten Cal to move to No. 4, knocked off USC to move up to No. 2 and eliminated Stanford to claim the No. 1 spot. 

The Gauchos have been firing on all cylinders as a team this 2019 season and will look to continue this unified style of play this weekend. Senior utility Ivan Gvozdanovic has remained lights out on the defensive end of the pool this season, kickstarting the team’s fast-paced offensive attack by getting stops on the other side of the pool. The offense, which has scored goals in bunches this season, is propelled by junior attacker Cole Brosnan who has been scoring at will as of late. Brosnan was named Golden Coast Conference Player of the Week, as well as Santa Barbara Athletic Roundtable Athlete of the Week for his remarkable play as of late. 

Potential opponents for UCSB in the later rounds of the invitational include No. 6 Pepperdine, No. 7 UC Berkeley and No. 3 Stanford, all teams that the Gauchos have beaten so far this season. One particularly intriguing potential matchup could be the No. 2 UCLA Bruins, who are seemingly the only top team that UCSB hasn’t defeated during their record-breaking run. The Bruins are currently undefeated, coming into the invitational with a perfect 6-0 record, as well as an unofficial win over The Olympic Club earlier this year. The Gauchos are scheduled to take them on Oct. 11 but we could be looking at an earlier matchup between these two titans if they both advance deep in the invitational this weekend.

The SoCal Invitational will be full of top teams from around California. Santa Barbara will come into this stacked tourney with a new test in front of them, playing as the No. 1 team in the nation. The first game of the tournament kicks off at 4:40 p.m. in LA. If you can’t make it to Southern California to support UCSB, you can tune into for the play by play and score updates.