After starting the season with 15 consecutive wins, a five-game losing streak can derail the momentum of a promising season.
Those five losses came by a combined eight goals, including four by one goal.
On Sunday afternoon at Campus Pool, the fourth-ranked UCSB men’s water polo team showed that no one should count them out just yet.
For the first time since 1981, UCSB defeated No. 8 Cal twice in one season, using six goals from Nathan Puentes to outlast the Golden Bears in overtime, 13-10.
“We hadn’t beaten them since 2004 and now we’ve beaten them twice in a season. It’s a huge statement win and it puts us in a great position for an at-large bid,” said Gauchos head coach Wolf Wigo. “They’re a very good team that can get wins off anyone, and this shows that we’re back and ready to fight for a national championship.”
The victory came 24 hours after UCSB picked up a narrow victory over rival Long Beach State, 11-10 — riding three goals from Puentes.
UCSB is now 17-5 overall and 1-1 in the Golden Coast Conference.
On Sunday, UCSB ran out to a 6-4 lead at halftime, only to see Cal battle back in the second half.
The Golden Bears managed to take a 9-8 lead with a pair of power-play goals in the fourth quarter, but UCSB sophomore Leo Yuno scored with just under two minutes to go to tie the game.
The Gauchos went ahead 10-9 in the first overtime on a penalty shot from Puentes.
“Going into it, the (Cal) guys next to me were trying to get into my head, so I went underwater and focused (before taking the shot),” Puentes said. “I knew where I was going the whole time and I was just trying to avoid getting distracted from the opposition.”
Puentes would add two more goals, one in the first overtime and another in the second overtime, to put the Gauchos up 12-9. Cole Brosnan added UCSB’s final goal.
Wigo was impressed by how Puentes took command in overtime.
“Yeah, he really caught fire at the end there. He was playing a good game. He got hurt in the middle of the game and had to sit out for a little bit, so it showed a lot of determination to hit those shots,” said Wigo.
UCSB will wrap up its home schedule on Nov. 2 when they host UC Irvine in a key Golden Coast matchup at noon, with Senior Day starting at 11:45 a.m.