Gauchos offense falters in final frame, lose to USC 10-9
It has been a rough week and a half for the No. 4 UCSB men’s water polo team. Since starting the season 15-0, Santa Barbara has lost three straight matches, including its game on Sunday against No. 5 USC.
The Gauchos were looking to beat the Trojans for the second time this year, and in front of a soldout home crowd, but failed to do so dropping the contest 10-9.
All three of UCSB’s losses — against UCLA, Pacific, and USC — have come by one goal, making the losses sting a little bit more.
“It’s hard, but it is a sign that we are playing well. We are never letting any team run on us. A lot of times we are playing great for a quarter or two and then we give up four goals and that is a strength of this season that we haven’t done that. It sucks to lose, but I’d rather lose by one goal then three, five or seven,” head coach Wolf Wigo said.
Ultimately, the Gauchos loss was due in large part to the lack of offensive flow at the end of the match.
Going into the fourth quarter tied at 8-8, USC and UCSB traded a pair of goals to be tied at 9-9. Then, with 6:48 remaining, the Trojans Jake Ehrhardt tallied his second score of the day to put the road team back in front.
The Gauchos then had 11 opportunities to try to net an equalizer but failed each time, sometimes forcing long shots instead of being able to get something inside.
“I think we were just a little tired at the end. Both teams were tired and we were missing opportunities. I thought we played a good game tactically. We didn’t really give them any free goals- they had some nice shots. We were right there, but it was disappointing to come up short with a one-goal loss at the end of the game,” Wigo said.
Senior utility Ivan Gvozdanovic was particularly upset after the loss. Despite scoring a game-high four goals, Gvozdanovic had three great looks in the final 11 possessions, but each was saved by the Trojan keeper, Nic Porter.
Senior attacker Jacob Halle and junior attackers Cole Brosnan and Leo Yuno each had two opportunities of their own that either missed or were saved.
Of the goals that were missed, many hit the goal post and were inches away from being inside the net.
In the final possession of the game, coach Wigo wanted to call a timeout, but because UCSB had drawn an offensive foul on USC, the Gauchos were able to go out and get numbers.
Not wanting to stop the momentum, Wigo let his team go and eventually Brosnan had the final look of the game, but his shot went right into the arms of Porter, who had 10 saves.
In the first quarter of the match, however, it did not even look like Santa Barbara would even be in the game at the end.
Despite facing a tough environment, USC netted the first two goals of the game. After two quick rebuttals from UCSB, the Trojans again scored two more to have a 4-2 lead and drew a penalty shot with just three seconds left in the first frame.
Lucky for the Gauchos, goalkeeper Danny Roland was there to make the save. In fact, multiple times throughout the match it was Roland’s strong play in the cage that kept the home team in the game.
Roland, despite playing with a broken pinky finger, recorded 10 saves on the day.
“The adrenaline kicked in and I felt fine. I thought we played with great energy. We got a few shot blocks late in the third and when we are playing well my energy boosts their energy,” Roland said.
To start the second quarter, Halle and sophomore attacker Sam Nagle each scored a goal to tie the match at 4-4.
UCSB then took the lead with a score from Gvozdanovic, but USC finally tallied one in the second quarter to go into the break tied at 5-5.
In the third, UCSB scored first, but USC then scored two to take a 7-6 lead. Santa Barbara countered with two of its own to take an 8-7 lead with 3:35 left in the third quarter.
After that, the Gauchos again had a few chances to really open the game up and take a multiple-goal lead but failed each time.
“It’s a little frustrating (to see missed opportunities on offense) because from my perspective I could see a lot of things that they can’t see but I know they were working their best and doing everything they can to score as many goals but sometimes it doesn’t work out,” Roland said.
USC would tie the game before the end of the third and then would outscore UCSB 2-1 in the final frame to get the win.
Despite the three straight losses, the Gauchos are still confident in what they have shown this season and how they could recapture that early run that saw them run the table all the way to the No. 1 spot in the country.
Remaining confident will be key as UCSB travels to face No. 2 UCLA next week, the team that marred the Gauchos 15-0 start.
“I am very confident in us bouncing back. We need to come back, watch some film on our mistakes, some film on UCLA and come back with the attitude and confidence we need to win there,” Roland said.