Jovanovic Named GCC Player of the Week
The UC Santa Barbara men's water polo team got out to a 3-1 start to the season at the Triton Invitational, led by senior driver Boris Jovanovic, this week's GCC Player of the Week. Jovanovic – whose 100 career goals entering the year were the most on the team – paced UCSB with nine goals through four games, leading the Gauchos to a second-place finish down in San Diego. He found the scoresheet in all four outings, providing three multi-goal efforts.
The Novi Sad, Serbia native put away a pair of third quarter goals against No. 6 Long Beach State which would prove to be crucial, as UCSB went on to defeat its first ranked opponent of the season, 11-10. Jovanovic would explode for four goals against No. 3 Cal, as the Gauchos sniffed an early-season upset before eventually falling, 12-9. He also scored twice in an 18-6 season-opening win over Redlands and once in a 9-6 victory over Loyola Marymount.
The strong showing moved the No. 7 Gauchos up three spots in the Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA) national rankings, the biggest jump of any team following opening weekend. UCSB leapfrogged over fellow GCC programs No. 10 UC Irvine and No. 8 Pepperdine, and now owns the third-highest ranking in the GCC, behind only No. 6 LBSU and No. 5 Pacific. The Gauchos were ranked No. 10 in the Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA) National Preseason Poll, the fifth-highest ranking among GCC schools.
Inland Empire Classic Preview
The Gauchos resume play this weekend at the Inland Empire Classic in La Verne, Calif. They will face Chapman (10:20 a.m.) and Whittier (3:40 p.m.) on Saturday before closing the weekend against La Verne (9:00 a.m.) and Concordia (1:20 p.m.) on Sunday. UCSB is a combined 33-1 all-time against this weekend's competition.
UCSB begins its new campaign with big shoes to fill following the departures of ACWPC All-Americans Shane Hauschild and Reed Cotterill. Hauschild poured in a team-high 36 goals in 2017, while Cotterill was one of the team's top playmakers, leading the way with 27 drawn ejections and 23 goals of his own.
However, the Gauchos have strong candidates to fill the offensive void with the Serbian duo of senior Boris Jovanovic and junior Ivan Gvozdanovic potentially returning to action in a larger role. Jovanovic – a 2016 All-GCC Honorable Mention – was second on the team with 31 goals on 105 shot attempts and 12 assists last season. Gvozdanovic meanwhile earned his second consecutive All-GCC Honorable Mention after registering 24 goals, 10 assists and 11 steals on an efficient .338 shooting percentage.
Also presumably backing up the Novi Sad, Serbia natives with bigger roles this year are a trio of sophomore returners. Adam Lott joins the aforementioned Gaucho studs as one of five players to reach the 20-goal mark last season. Cole Brosnan was fifth on the team in points (26), tallying 19 goals and seven assists last year. Chad Nelson added 17 goals of his own to go along with 12 steals.
UCSB was predicted to finish in third-place in this year's GCC Preseason Coaches' Poll, receiving 17 points. Pacific sits atop the poll after earning five first-place votes and 25 points. Long Beach State narrowly edged the Gauchos for second at 18 points, while Pepperdine took fourth with 16 points. UC Irvine and San Jose State rounded out the poll in fifth with seven points apiece.
Look Back to Last Year
One year after going undefeated in GCC play on the way to a regular season title, the Gauchos went 11-12 overall and 1-4 in conference in 2017. They began the year by going 2-2 at the Triton Invitational, defeating Concordia 15-11 and UC Irvine 14-12 in overtime, before coming up just short to then-No. 1 Cal, 8-7, and Long Beach State, 9-6. UCSB went on to be knocked out in their first conference tournament game against the Anteaters, before defeating San Jose State 18-14 in the GCC Championship 5th-place game.