No. 12 UCSB (15-11, 0-4) dropped a women’s water polo thriller against Long Beach State, falling 8-7 in six overtimes at Campus Pool on Saturday.
“We battled. We showed a lot of resilience and mental toughness,” head coach Serela Kay said. “There are a few moments in the game and some small details that we just need to focus on and lock in, so that when we have an opportunity, we can take it.”
Goalkeeper Kenzi Snyder put together perhaps the best performance of her freshman season, notching 13 saves and three steals to lead a UCSB defense that held Long Beach scoreless for nearly 20 consecutive minutes late in the second half. A handful of Snyder’s incredible saves came down the stretch of the tightly contested match – often in highly unfavorable 1-on-1 situations – helping UCSB extend the game to as many as four three-minute sudden death extra sessions.
In her final game at Campus Pool, senior Taylor Shore recorded a team-high two goals to lead the offense. Also nabbing goals for the Gauchos were sophomore Sarah Kreiser, freshman Abbey Grosse, sophomore Kate Pipkin, freshman Kate Coski and senior Jenna Solberg.
“It was awesome having so many friends and families and fans in the stand. We felt the energy and the support,” Kay said. “I’m proud of how far the seniors have come since I got here three years ago. The goal is for them to pass the torch once they’re gone.”
After a slow start saw UCSB trail 4-1 coming out of halftime, the Gauchos came to life in the third, as they outscored the 49ers 3-0 to tie things up at 4-4 heading into the final frame.
Grosse began the 3-0 run with a moment of magic at the 3:21 mark of the third. After receiving a pass with her back to the goal, the freshman found herself in a duel with the 49er goalkeeper who had vacated the cage thinking she would be the first to the ball. Immediately after securing the ball, Grosse threw a no-look, over-the-head shot past several defenders and into the empty net, cutting the deficit to 4-2.
Solberg and Shore would add momentum-shifting goals of their own soon after. First, Solberg made it 4-3 by firing a shot under the goalkeeper’s arm through a tight, near-post angle on the right wing. Just 45 seconds later, Shore brought the Gauchos even at 4-4, picking up a steal near mid-pool and taking it by herself before sending a perfectly-placed shot with pace into the left side of the net.
Long Beach would retake the lead, scoring the first two goals of the fourth period. However, with 2:41 to go, Shore found Kreiser for a quick strike to make it 6-5.
Still needing a goal coming out of a timeout with under 15 seconds remaining, the Gauchos would send it to overtime on a miracle shot by Pipkin, leaving just three ticks on the clock. Despite being pressured by a defender deep on the right wing, the Indiana transfer sent a perfectly-placed lob shot that bounced off the far post and crawled in behind the goalkeeper’s back, tying it at 6-6.
The Gauchos would be the first to strike in the first overtime period, taking their only lead of the game after capitalizing on two simultaneous 49er exclusions. In the 6-on-4 situation, Pipkin found Coski deep inside to fire it in, making it 7-6.
Unfortunately for UCSB, the 49ers would find a last-second equalizer of their own, as they tied things up with just five seconds left in the second overtime to take the game into sudden death. That set the stage for Kenzi Snyder, who made an unbelievable stop in nearly every one of the six extra sessions. However, Long Beach’s Annabel Harman would score the final goal with 1:58 to go in the fourth sudden death period, giving the 49ers the 8-7 victory.
“Anytime you play a team for six overtimes, in the end I think it shows a lot of character for both teams,” Kay said. “I think it’s important for us to realize that, focus on the little things and know that it’s anyone’s game on any given day.”
UCSB will play its regular season finale at Cal State Northridge next Saturday at 12 p.m.