The UC Santa Barbara Men’s Water Polo team is back in town this weekend, as the Gauchos are set to open Big West play against first-year program Cal State Fullerton on Saturday. UC Santa Barbara will also play UC Merced on Saturday, and the Bobcats and Titans will play a neutral-site match while in Santa Barbara.
WHEN AND WHERE TO WATCH
All of Saturday’s action will be hosted at Santa Barbara High School. The Bobcats and Titans will be first in the pool, playing a neutral-site game at 12 p.m. The Gauchos will jump in after, taking on UC Merced at 2:30 p.m. before rounding out the day against Cal State Fullerton at 5 p.m.
Due to capacity restrictions at Santa Barbara High, only fans on the player pass list will be admitted to each game. The Gauchos’ two games will both be live on ESPN+ and all three will have live stats available through thefosh.net and ucsbgauchos.com.
WHAT TO KNOW ABOUT THE GAUCHOS (11-8)
UC Santa Barbara comes into this weekend after going 2-2 at the inaugural Big West-WCC Clash, racking up two more ranked wins and climbing back into the top 10 of the Association of Collegiate Water Polo Coaches National Rankings. The Gauchos defeated two ranked opponents last weekend, taking down UC San Diego (which was ranked No. 10 by the ACWPC at the time), 15-11, last Saturday and then-No. 13/14 Loyola Marymount, 16-15, on Sunday.
Center Dash McFarland scored 13 more goals for the Gauchos over the weekend, bringing his total to a Big West-leading 56 on the season. McFarland is averaging 2.95 goals per game currently, putting him on pace to score 85, which would be the fifth-highest scoring season in UC Santa Barbara history. Behind McFarland, Adam Gyenis has emerged as a potent second option in attack. The junior has already surpassed his career high for goals with 38 and matched his career best 13 assists. He was named Big West Player of the Week earlier this month and ranks second on the team in points. Brock Zamanian leads the team in assists with 26, ranking third in the conference.
Levi Lentin has been the Gauchos’ first-choice goalkeeper this season, playing 404 minutes across 14 of 19 games so far. Lentin ranks fifth in The Big West in saves (98) and fourth in save percentage (.405).
SCOUTING THE BOBCATS (12-8)
UC Merced is 12-9 on the season but winless against Division-I opponents, being out-scored, 89-17, in four games. The Bobcats made a stop in Riverside on Friday, suffering defeats to Concordia Irvine and California Baptist.
Last weekend, the Bobcats set a new program record for goals in a game, defeating CalTech 22-6. Camden Peterson scored five of those 22 goals, as did Tommy Bauer. Earlier in the weekend, Peterson scored eight goals in the Bobcats’ 20-7 win over Penn State Behrend. As impressive as Peterson’s scoring output is, he does not come close to the team lead. That belongs to center Killian Nguyen, who has scored in 14 of the team’s 16 games, including a seven-goal day against Whittier over the weekend. Nguyen has 48 goals on the season.
SCOUTING THE TITANS (14-7)
Cal State Fullerton is in its first year playing men’s water polo and has made a solid start, winning two thirds of its first 21 games. That includes two victories over Air Force, one of which came in quadruple overtime.
The Titans have four 30-goal scorers on their roster, with team leader Julian Nichols tallying 41 through the team’s first 21 games. The junior utility put up six goals against Westcliff in early September and has scored in each of the team’s last five contests, tallying a hat-trick or better in three of them. Behind Nichols on the Titans’ 30-goals list are Dominic Hernandez (38), Togan Ozbek (37) and Jacob Hatch (30).