The No. 18-ranked UCSB women’s water polo team finished off day two Saturday of the 2022 UCSB Winter Invite in spectacular fashion, as Leigh Lyter’s unreal game-winning goal from near the middle of the pool left two seconds on the clock to put the Gauchos on top 15-14 over No. 19 Princeton.
That came just hours after another thriller, a 16-15 win over No. 23 Wagner which also saw the Gauchos overcome a fourth quarter deficit.
With two more games remaining in its opening weekend, UCSB is now out to a 3-1 start, its best since 2019.
As she did against Wagner earlier in the day, attacker Leigh Lyter scored four goals against the Tigers, tying fellow redshirt freshman Nina Munson for game-high honors. All four of Lyter’s goals came in the second half, as she helped UCSB fight back from a 7-4 deficit early in the third quarter.
A pair of incredible buzzer beaters highlighted the Gaucho win. After a Princeton turnover with just seconds left in the third, freshman utility Annie Kuester took it upon herself to tie the score for the first time since the opening period. She brought it down the left side and beat the Tigers’ goalkeeper with a gorgeous shot to the far post from way outside.
The teams traded the lead a couple more times, and UCSB found itself trailing 14-13 after Maisie McPherson put Princeton up with 48 seconds remaining. Needing an equalizer, the Gauchos turned to freshman center Imani Clemons, who tied it with just 19 seconds to go.
Going for the win, Princeton attempted an aggressive long pass from the goalkeeper position, but Caitlyn Snyder intercepted it to set up one final chance for the Gauchos in regulation. Snyder sent it across the pool to Lyter, who reeled it in and composed herself before lifting the most perfect, and improbable game-winning shot in from extremely long distance
NO. 18 UCSB VS. NO. WAGNER (16-15)
UCSB notched its first win against a ranked opponent earlier in the day. Wagner started strong, taking a 5-2 lead in the final minutes of the opening frame.
However, the Gauchos turned the tide with some inspired play the rest of the half. Defender Claire Kelly brought them level at 8-8 with 2:02 left in the second, capping a 6-3 UCSB run.
The two sides battled to a stalemate until midway through the fourth quarter, when Wagner went ahead once again with 4:25 left, taking a slight 14-13 advantage. Lyter tied it on the Gauchos’ next possession, and redshirt junior attacker Sarah Owens scored at the 2:47 mark to give UCSB a 15-14 lead. Munson added another dagger about a minute and a half later, giving the Gauchos an all-important two-goal lead heading into the final minute of play.
The Seahawks scored with four seconds left, leaving too little time to send the game into overtime.
Michael Jorgenson writes about sports for UCSB.