No. 4 UCSB Advances to Semis With 9-7 Opening Round Win at No. 5 LBSU

Kate Pipkin (Photo by Minette Rubin)
Kate Pipkin (Photo by Minette Rubin)

LONG BEACH, Calif. – Facing No. 5 seed Long Beach State for the second time in six days, the No. 4 UC Santa Barbara women's water polo team made it two straight wins over the 49ers, defeating them 9-7 on Friday afternoon in the Big West Tournament First Round at LBSU's Ken Lindgren Aquatics Center.

Senior utility Kate Pipkin led the way with three goals, securing a hat trick against a Big West opponent for the first time this year and her fifth overall. After helping hold Long Beach to just three goals in last Saturday's 6-3 win, junior goalkeeper Kenzi Snyder was fantastic once more in goal, racking up a season-best 16 saves for a .696 save percentage to go along with two assists.

The win advances UCSB (21-7) into tomorrow's Big West Tournament Semifinal matchup with No. 1 UC Irvine at 1:00 p.m. It also avenges the Gauchos' previous two postseason campaigns, both of which began with first round exits at the hands of the 49ers.

Santa Barbara never trailed on Friday, taking its initial lead at the midpoint of the opening period courtesy of a Caitlyn Snyder goal. Kenzi Snyder would assist on a Kelly Murphy goal several minutes later to make it 2-0, but Long Beach responded to tie the game early in the second.

Junior Sarah Snyder scored on an assist by Amanda Legaspi to make it 3-2 at the 5:52 mark of the second, but the 49ers quickly equalized again. The Gauchos would close the opening half out strong, as Pipkin converted goals on a power play and a penalty shot to send her team into the break leading 5-3.

UCSB would win its third straight quarter in the third, outscoring LBSU 2-1 with goals coming from Kate Coski and Pipkin to head into the final frame leading 7-4.

The three-goal cushion would prove too much to overcome, as the 49ers never got within fewer than two goals the rest of the way. Mollie Simmons scored on another assist from Caitlyn Snyder, her second of the half. Caitlyn eventually capped UCSB's day off with her second goal off a feed from Pipkin, putting the Gauchos up 9-6 with 5:50 to go.

The Gauchos have now reached 21 wins for the first time since at least 1996.

Tomorrow, UCSB faces a familiar foe in top-seeded UC Irvine (18-8), a team it has already faced three times this season. The last time they faced each other, the Gauchos erased a three-goal deficit to top the Anteaters 6-5 in the opening game of Big West play on Mar. 9.