The No. 18 UC Santa Barbara women’s water polo team showed a lot of resilience in its second-to-last home game Saturday against No. 11 Long Beach State, but the Beach pulled away late to claim a 14-9 victory.
The Gauchos (11-10, 1-3) got out to a fast start, making it look easy with goals on each of their first two possessions. Claire Kelly set up Caitlyn Snyder for the first goal on a power play just 26 seconds in and Drew Halvorson took a pass in behind the LBSU for an easy shot to make it 2-0.
The Beach (12-12, 1-2) answered with two goals, but Imani Clemons put the Gauchos back ahead 3-2 with 2:56 to go in the first.
However, LBSU would take its first lead by scoring the final goal of the first and the opening goal of the second.
Sarah Owens and Leigh Lyter both put in second quarter equalizers, with Lyter tying it at 5-5 with 1:20 remaining in the half. Long Beach scored in the final minute to take a 6-5 lead into the break.
The visitors carried their momentum into the third, extending to a 4-0 run and taking a 9-5 lead as they looked to blow the game open.
The Gauchos played some inspired water polo the rest of the quarter. Juju Amaral scored first and Halvorson added her second of the day to make it 9-7 with 1:37 left in the third.
Amaral found Owens for another goal at the :45 mark to bring the Gauchos within one, causing an uproar of energy from the crowd and the UCSB bench.
Unfortunately for the Gauchos, their momentum would be cut short before they could tie the game once more. Long Beach scored five straight to pull away and seal the win.
Owens added UCSB’s final goal with 2:12 left in the fourth. That sealed her fourth three-goal performance of the year.
Goalkeeper Madison Button finished with seven saves and an assist.
Amaral continued to impress, finishing with a team-high three assists to go along with her one goal.
Next Saturday, the Gauchos close out their 2022 home schedule against No. 12 UC San Diego in another 12:00 p.m. meeting at Campus Pool.
Michael Jorgenson works in communications/media relations at Santa Barbara City College.