In their six games at the season-opening 2023 Winter Invite, the UC Santa Barbara women’s water polo team made it abundantly clear that they are better than the rankings would suggest.

Nexus File Photo

The Gauchos entered the weekend ranked No.19 in the nation by the Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA). At the Invite, they showcased persistence and elite togetherness across their six dominant performances, in five of which they emerged victorious.

UCSB started off the weekend with two games on Jan 20., shutting out Cal State Monterey Bay 14-0 and beating Concordia University Irvine 15-5 in a similarly commanding fashion. The Gauchos then defeated UC Merced with a remarkable 22-0 score on Jan. 21.

The Gauchos’ next opponent, Indiana University Bloomington, was expected to end UCSB’s win streak, given their No. 14 CWPA ranking. However, despite being placed five spots below Indiana, the Gauchos used their momentum from their previous three games to pull off a 13-10 upset victory.

“We knew Indiana was going to be one of our toughest games of the weekend, so that was the game [where] everybody needed to come together,” redshirt senior utility Caitlyn Snyder said. “Everyone was on the same page; everyone wanted to win. I think one of the big things was the momentum in the first quarter [continuing] all the way through — everyone was consistent with their playing defensively and offensively.”

After cruising past Ottawa University 18-6  on Jan. 22, the Gauchos faced UCLA, whom the CWPA ranked No. 3. While UCSB ultimately fell short with a final score of 11-6, the group was able to legitimately compete against a talented opponent, an impressive feat that appropriately concluded an overall successful invite for the Gauchos.

“I think the UCLA game was a great way to end,” Snyder said. “Obviously we didn’t end up winning, but UCLA is an amazing team, and just for us to be only down by one going into the fourth quarter, it was huge to show that we can compete with anyone.”

Snyder, named a 2022 Division I All-American Honorable Mention, played a pivotal role in the team’s success throughout the weekend, totaling 20 goals across their six games.

The team also experienced standout performances from sophomore center Imani Clemons, who scored 3 of the Gauchos’ 6 goals against UCLA, and redshirt sophomore utility Leigh Lyter contributed 4 points in UCSB’s pivotal win over Indiana.

While accomplishments from individual players certainly aided the team in achieving a 5-1 win-loss record, the leading factor in the Gauchos’ success throughout the weekend was their ability to work as a unit.

“Our chemistry was good, but now I believe that it’s great,” Snyder said. “We all have the same goal, and that goal is winning a Big West Championship, and when everyone has the same goal, anybody is willing to do anything to achieve that goal.”

UCSB players still have a long season ahead of them before the Big West Championship. The team’s next challenge will take place from Jan. 27-29 at the Princeton Invite. Coming off a strong start to their season, the Gauchos hope to continue improving and eventually turn their goal into a reality.

“Every game you play, win or loss, you’re gonna gain something out of it and learn from those things,” Snyder said. “I think we still have a lot to learn and [there are] more things we can do to improve offensively and defensively, but everybody [is] believing in each other and supporting each other and as long as we continue that, we’re going to hopefully reach our goal.”

A version of this article appeared on p. 7 of the Jan. 26, 2023 print edition of the Daily Nexus.


Alex Levin
Alex Levin (he/him) is the University News Editor for the 2023-24 school year. Previously, Levin was the Assistant News Editor for the 2022-2023 school year. He can be reached at