After four straight losses, the No. 5 UCSB men’s water polo team was eager to begin a new season on Saturday: conference play.
Unfortunately for the Gauchos, Saturday’s league match against Pacific ended the same way it has in now four of their last five contests, in a one-goal loss.
After a foul call, Pacific’s Luis Araya had some space and netted a goal with 12 seconds remaining to give his team a 17-16 win at a fully packed Campus Pool. Araya finished with three goals on the day.
“We thought the guy (Araya) hesitated way too long after the foul, but our guy didn’t even have his hand up so there is no excuse for that,” Head Coach Wolf Wigo said.
The loss drops UCSB to 15-5 overall and 0-1 to begin Golden Coast Conference play while Pacific improves to 12-3 and 1-0.
Defensive struggles were the killer for the Gauchos in Saturday’s match as the team allowed a season-high 17 goals on the day. In the last two matches, UCSB has given up a total of 32.
“The offense was great, but the problem is we didn’t want to be in a game like this. That’s the way they play; high scoring games, 15+ goals. We talked about how having a low-scoring game would be better for us. It didn’t go the way we wanted to, but we played well. We have to keep our heads up,” Wigo said.
The defensive lapses were apparent from the start as the Tigers jumped out to a 5-3 lead after the first quarter.
UCSB responded by tying the match at 9-9 by halftime, but the problems were more than noticeable as by that point, Pacific’s Luke Pavillard had already registered four goals, most coming from close as he was able to get by the defense and shoot with his off-hand into the goal.
For the most part, neither goalkeeper played well for the Gauchos in the cage on Saturday.
Tiago Bonchristiano started the entire first half and allowed nine goals with only three saves. Danny Roland played the entire second half and allowed eight goals with only two saves.
The high-scoring affair continued in the third frame, as both teams were able to find the back of the net five times.
Tied at 14-14, the scoring really slowed down in the fourth, but that doesn’t mean the opportunities weren’t there.
Multiple times the Gauchos were in a position to get a score and floundered their chances.
With the match tied at 15-15, UCSB made an inside pass to junior Mason McQuet who would have been all alone. Instead, he fumbled the ball around a bit, but still managed to draw an ejection.
The Gauchos then had a penalty shot opportunity but junior Cole Brosnan missed the subsequent look keeping the score tied at 15.
On the next possession, UCSB again found a good player cutting towards the goal as sophomore attacker Sam Nagle had a clear path to the goal and looked like he had a one-on-one opportunity with the goalie.
For some reason, however, Nagle passed the ball back to a Gaucho near the red area which was quickly stolen by Pacific.
UCSB did finally take the lead with under three minutes to play as senior Jacob Halle somehow sandwiched in a goal between three Pacific defenders that were just standing in front of the net.
Pacific would tie the match at 16 with 1:40 left to play and gave Santa Barbara two chances to re-take the lead. Both times UCSB missed the shot.
And, finally, with 12 seconds left, Pacific took advantage and nailed its look to win the game.
Tigers’ keeper Jon Barry, who finished with eight saves throughout the four quarters, blocked the Gauchos final look at the net before the final horn.
Nagle was the leading scorer for UCSB with four goals while Halle, Brosnan and Ivan Gvozdanovic each had two scores of their own in the teams’ fifth straight loss.
Santa Barbara’s last five losses have come against opponents ranked in the top five in the country, including two losses to Pacific and two to UCLA.
And, while a losing streak could deflate a team, Wigo said the fact that it has been against such steep competition helps keep the team’s spirit up.
“It’s hard but it’s sports. It happens at every level and every sport. We are still 15-5 and we’re still in position to get an at-large bid in the NCAA tournament so we just have to take everything one game at a time and win these next few games,” Wigo said.
UCSB travels to Long Beach State for a match at 6 p.m. on Saturday.