The fourth-ranked UC Santa Barbara men’s water polo team fell to fifth-ranked USC in a rematch of the Gauchos’ earlier win over the Trojans this season at the Inland Empire Classic on Sunday afternoon at Campus Pool in a tight contest that finished 10-9 in favor of the visitors.
“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,” said head coach Wolf Wigo after the match.
USC scored the first two goals of the game, taking the lead inside of two minutes.
Gaucho senior attacker Jacob Halle scored UCSB’s first goal of the game four minutes into the match, and it took no longer than 18 seconds after his goal for the Gauchos to get tied up with the Trojans via senior utility Ivan Gvozdanovic.
USC’s Jacob Mercep rounded out the first quarter with a pair of goals for the visitors, making the score 4-2 after the first eight minutes of play.
The Gauchos scored three straight goals to open the second quarter, taking the 5-4 lead after another Gvozdanovic goal with 3:25 left in the half.
The Trojans would level the match at 5-5 after a Marin Dasic goal with 2:53 to go in the half, which would be the final score of the second quarter.
Entering the second half, the Gauchos got the lead back via Gvozdanovic 28 seconds into the third quarter, but USC quickly stormed back with back-to-back goals to retake the advantage 7-6.
Continuing the back-and-forth action, it was the Gauchos that scored two in a row, as redshirt freshman driver Ryan Brosnan and Gvozdanovic fired UCSB ahead once again, and the team was up 8-7 with 3:35 left in the third quarter.
The Trojans scored on either side of the break between the third and fourth quarters, as they then went up 9-8 just 24 seconds into the final period.
Junior attacker Leo Yuno scored on the powerplay 25 seconds later, trying the score up at nine apiece.
USC continued to fight against the Gaucho comeback, with a Jake Ehrhardt goal with 6:48 remaining in regulation putting UCSB in a trailing position yet again.
The Gauchos had chances in the final minutes, coming close and forcing several saves out of USC goalkeeper Nic Porter, but were unable to find another goal and ultimately fell 10-9.
This was the Gauchos’ third consecutive one-point loss, after suffering defeats to both then-No. 4 Pacific and then-No. 2 UCLA at the MPSF SoCal Invitational last weekend.
“I’m very confident in us bouncing back. They’re three great teams that we’ve played. They’re all winnable games. Our shots didn’t go in today, we had several bar-outs, and it wasn’t our day,” said UCSB redshirt freshman goalkeeper Danny Roland, who made 10 saves in the match including a saved penalty shot early in the match.
“It’s a sign that we’re playing well, we’re playing consistently, and we’re not letting anybody run on us. A lot of times you’ll have games where you play really well for a quarter or two and then you give up four or five goals in a quarter. That’s a real strength of this season is that we haven’t had games in which we’ve done that. All it does is reinforce that we’re right there and we can compete against anybody in the country,” added Wigo.
Gvozdanovic recorded a season-high four goals in the loss.
Prior to the match, the 1979 national champion UCSB men’s water polo team, who defeated UCLA 11-3 in the NCAA final that year to win UCSB its first-ever Division I national title, was recognized in a pregame ceremony.
The game was played in front of a sold-out crowd at Campus Pool and a watch party was hosted at Woodstock’s Pizza Isla Vista to accommodate the maximum amount of fans.
UCSB will take on UCLA on Friday night at Spieker Aquatics Center.
Story courtesy of UCSB Athletics.