The Vaqueros are now 28-1 on the season after starting the year with a program-best 28 consecutive wins. (Lily Chubb / Noozhawk Photo)

The Santa Barbara City College Women’s Water Polo team hosted the SBCC Halloween Tournament at Dos Pueblos High School this weekend, going 4-1.

Only top-25-ranked Division-I Cal State Northridge could beat the Vaqueros, ending SBCC’s best start in program history at 28 consecutive wins.

“I’m pretty proud of them,” Vaqueros head coach Chuckie Roth said. “They rose to the occasion and showed a lot of resilience. We fought.”

SBCC 12, West Valley 10

Match one came against West Valley, ranked #3 in the state. The Vaqueros had beaten West Valley in the second game of the season, 15-11, and in last year’s CCCAA State Semifinal, 13-7.

This time, the Vaqueros prevailed again, but not before a fervent late comeback attempt from their opponent.

A strong second quarter with five goals from five different goalscorers, gave the Vaqueros a little breathing room at halftime, up 8-4. A solid third quarter combined with an early fourth quarter goal pushed the Vaqueros to a 12-6 lead.

However, West Valley scored twice midway through the final period to diminish the lead to 12-8. Another West Valley goal with about 90 seconds left forced the Vaqueros to anchor down, but a turnover led to another goal with just over a minute to go.

The score would end 12-10, and after playing smoothly for 28 minutes with a hairy finish, the Vaqueros would add to their record start.

“It’s great that we can make some mistakes but still come away with a win,” Roth said.

Gabrielle Muehring was phenomenal, besting her previous career high in goals (3) with five. Claire Daland was second on the team with two.

Lily Carrick had a typical all-around strong match by her standards: one goal, four assists, one steal, and three exclusions drawn. Caroline Oates had two assists, and Maddie Myers drew two exclusions.

Addie Lane led the team with three steals, while Kate Densmore, Sofia Paez and Oates had two apiece.

SBCC 17, Cabrillo 8

Match two came immediately following, under the lights against Cabrillo. It was an offensive barrage from SBCC, they scored five, three, four and five goals per quarter.

That consistency carried the Vaqueros to a 17-8 victory, and another 2-0 start to a tournament.

This match, it was a different Gabi’s turn to set a career-high in goals. Gabi Turnbull was clinical, finding the back of the net four times, and also dishing two assists.

Daland was equally excellent, with four goals, two assists, five steals, an exclusion drawn and a block. Lane tallied two goals and three steals, while Carrick contributed two goals and two assists. 

SBCC’s Addie Lane (6) filled up the stat sheet all weekend long for the Vaqueros. (Lily Chubb / Noozhawk Photo)

Oates also had two assists, and seven different Vaqueros had two or more steals: Daland (5), Lane (3), Muehring (3), Oates (2), Esther Sullivan (2), Myers (2), and Tayten Neiderhiser (2).

“Kate Densmore was great, both Gabi’s (Muehring and Turnbull) were great,” Roth said. “GT (Gabi Turnbull) is a great person; she had some really nice goals. I’m really happy for her.”

SBCC 17, UCSB Club A 7

Saturday was a big day with three games scheduled for SBCC, and it started bright and early at 8 a.m. with a matchup against UCSB’s Club A team.

The Vaqueros remained consistent, ending the first period up 5-1 and scoring five, five, three and four goals each quarter. They cruised to a 17-7 win.

Daland, Sullivan and Carrick tossed three goals each, while Muehring had two.

Lane was generous, tying Borh Carrick’s single-game season high in assists and second most in a game in program history with six. Carrick dished two assists of her own.

Oates continued her solid defensive season, swiping four steals; Daland also had two.

SBCC 10, LA Valley 3

After a few hours out of the pool, the Vaqueros came back against conference foe LA Valley. In this match, the defense was the story.

The Vaqueros allowed a goal with five seconds left in the first quarter and then would blank LA Valley until less than two minutes left in the fourth. 10-3 was the final, improving the Vaqueros’ conference record to 4-0 and overall record to 28-0.

Sullivan, Daland, and Carrick each had two steals apiece, but the defense was more of a wall than a takeaway machine.

LA Valley often had possessions that resulted in nothing, dumping the ball as the shot clock expired, speaking to the effectiveness of SBCC’s defensive schemes and the players as a group for executing.

The SBCC defense was dominant in the team’s win over LA Valley on Saturday. (Lily Chubb / Noozhawk Photo)

Lane led eight different Vaquero goalscorers with three. Carrick was the only one of six Vaqueros assisters with multiple, at two.

Truly, this was a dominant showing where all 15 Vaqueros showed their prowess and contributed, as has been the case for numerous games this season.

Densmore had her fourth consecutive match on the weekend with more saves than goals allowed, totaling 10 saves to just the three goals.

Cal State Northridge 9, SBCC 5

The final match for the Vaqueros of the weekend, and the third of the day, came against Cal State Northridge.

It would be a homecoming for 2022 SBCC Utility, WSC Offensive Player of the Year and CCCAA State Champion Jenna Olson. It would be the first time the Vaqueros would play a Division-I opponent, and a top-25 one, at that.

From the get-go, the flow of play was markedly quicker and more physical than any of the Vaqueros’ previous matches of the season.

Northridge took a 2-0 lead midway through the first period, but Myers answered back with an assist from Carrick to halve the deficit. Another goal from CSUN a few minutes later ended the quarter 3-1.

Oates assisted Lane on the first possession of the second quarter, and then Carrick assisted Muehring to tie the game at three midway through the period.

Northridge scored with a little over a minute before halftime and went into the break with a 4-3 lead, but SBCC outscored Northridge in the period.

After two goals from CSUN to open the scoring in the second half, Muehring answered for the Vaqueros, converting from 5 meters. After three quarters, the score was 6-4 CSUN.

The fourth period started like the second, with a goal on the Vaqueros’ first possession, this time Daland netting a beautiful goal. Suddenly, it was a one-goal game in the final frame.

The Vaqueros were goal-hungry, looking to tie the game against their Goliath, hitting the post a handful of times and coming very close to an equalizing goal.

CSUN scored midway through the period and then used that momentum to score twice more consecutively, ending the match 9-5.

“It got pretty physical there. I think we’ll play too aggressive in our next match,” Roth said with a laugh. “It was an eye-opener for us. Just a great example of becoming better, which is always our goal.

“I think we grew a lot today and it was great for our confidence.”

The Vaqueros played like they belonged. Getting off 27 total shots (this season’s average is about 28 per game), the Vaqueros were not gun-shy, attacking and staying aggressive against an older, stronger and quicker defense than they have been used to.

Also, it proves that the offense was effective enough to create a usual number of chances. Muehring led the team with two goals and Carrick led the team with two assists.

Defensively, Densmore and the Vaquero defense held firm to allow less than double-digit goals. Densmore had eight saves, and overall SBCC had a whopping 22 steals. 

Lane, Myers, Carrick, and Densmore all had four steals apiece, while Muehring had three and Oates added two.

SBCC head coach Chucky Roth led the Vaqueros to their best start in program history this year. (Lily Chubb / Noozhawk Photo)

“I think we were strong-minded,” Daland said. “We play to a certain standard, win or lose. [By playing in a match like this] we learn how to play at a higher level. It’s an opportunity to grow.”

Although a DI opponent, CCCAA rules state that no official matches can be listed as exhibitions after the first official game of the season has been played, so the loss will count against the Vaqueros’ record.

That means SBCC’s perfect season ends at 28 consecutive wins, but still 27-0 against CCCAA opponents.

The No. 1-ranked Vaqueros play next on Monday —a rescheduled conference game— at Santa Monica at 1 p.m.

Then, they will travel to LA Valley next weekend for the WSC Conference tournament, putting their 8-year conference championship streak to the test.