2012 Water Polo Season Opens with UCLA Invitational

Brian Shoemaker (By Ron Robertson)
Brian Shoemaker (By Ron Robertson)

The Schedule
UCLA Invitational at Spieker Aquatics Center
Saturday, September 1, 2012
UCSB vs. Cal Baptist, 10:30 a.m.
UCSB vs. Claremont-M-S, 4:45 p.m
Sunday, September 2, 2012
UCSB vs. UCLA, 8 a.m., (Exhibition)
UCSB vs. USC, 11:45 a.m., (Exhibition)
UCSB vs. Pepperdine, 2:15 p.m., (Exhibition)

The Grand Debut
The No. 5 UC Santa Barbara men's water polo team will open its 2012 campaign this Saturday at the UCLA Invitational.  Traveling to the Bruin's Spieker Aquatics Center, the Gauchos will introduce a competitive schedule with a pair of contests against No. 19 Cal Baptist and Claremont Mudd Scripps.  Sunday, the Gauchos will play three exhibition games against Mountain Pacific Sports Federation conference mates No. 2 UCLA, No. 8 Pepperdine, and will close out the tournament with No. 1 USC. 

Gaucho Roundup
UCSB brings an experienced team to the pool for the 2012 season, featuring 13 returning letterwinners of the 20 active roster members.  This season's new addtions to the active roster will include five redshirt freshmen and true freshmen Nick Jordan and Steven Tedsen.  In all, the Gauchos will be comprised of two seniors, four juniors, seven sophomores and 14 freshmen. 

Preseason Predictions
After finishing fifth in the MPSF and seventh nationally in its 2011 campaign and returning the bulk of its crew, UCSB men's water polo garnered 78 points in the Collegiate Water Polo Association's Preseason National Poll, boosting them two positions to a No. 5 national ranking. In a preseason prediction of the nation's most competitive water polo conference, the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Coaches' Poll predicted the Gauchos will finish fifth in conference play this season.

Keys to Success
Among the key returners for the Gauchos will be senior All-American Brian Shoemaker and senior goalkeeper Myles Christian, and junior 2011-All-MPSF pick Matt Gronow.  As a utility player, Shoemaker was fifth highest scorer on the squad with a career-high 23 goals in 2011.  He also contributed 17 assists and a team leading 39 earned ejections.  In the goal, Christian made 18 appearances for the Gauchos. He compiled a team best 25 steals, averaging 10.3 saves per game with an overall tally of 170 saves on the season.  Rounding out the Gaucho standouts, at attacker, Gronow played in all 28 games for UCSB.  He scored a team-leading 43 goals, tallied a fourth-best eight steals, and was second on the team with 23 assists. 

The Path towards a Title
Following this weekend, the Gauchos are set to host No. 11 UC San Diego in their home opener (Sept. 8) before beginning a three-week road swing.  UCSB will compete at the Inland Empire Tournament (Sept. 9), the NorCal Tournament (Sept. 15-16), and against Concordia (Sept. 23) before returning back home for the SoCal Tournament (Sept. 28-29).  The Gauchos will host a double header against Iona and Harvard (Oct. 7) before opening MPSF conference play at home against No. 4 Stanford (Oct. 13).