No. 5 UCSB Downs No. 10 Pepperdine in Overtime Thriller

Jacob Halle (Photo by Tony Mastres)
Jacob Halle (Photo by Tony Mastres)

MALIBU, Calif. – The No. 5 UC Santa Barbara men's water polo team defeated No. 10 Pepperdine 16-14 in an overtime thriller Thursday evening, improving to a perfect 3-0 against GCC opponents in 2018.

Fresh off claiming his record third consecutive GCC Player of the Week award, senior Boris Jovanovic remained hot with a game-high six goals, scoring at least once in all four quarters and the first period of overtime. Junior Ivan Gvozdanovic and sophomore Tommy Fellner added two goals apiece.

Both teams battled throughout in a game which had 12 ties and three lead changes. Redshirt freshman Adam Lott's goal with 2:44 left in the first overtime put UCSB up 14-13, giving the visitors their first lead since the 3:33 mark of the first quarter. Pepperdine would tie things up at 14-14 one minute later, but Jovanovic would put the Gauchos up for good with a goal on UCSB's next possession. Freshman Nathan Puentes put away another score for good measure with 1:21 left in the game, sealing the Gauchos' fourth straight win.

In what was a tightly contested match throughout, neither team led by more than two goals at any point. Pepperdine was the first to score, taking a 1-0 lead less than a minute in. The Gauchos responded with three unanswered, only to see the Waves take the lead back with three straight goals of their own.

UCSB managed to remain close throughout, finally winning a quarter with a 3-2 advantage in the fourth thanks to goals from Sam Nangle and the Serbian duo of Gvozdanovic and Jovanovic. With the win, the Gauchos improve to 4-3 against ranked opponents this year.

Gvozdanovic was a stalwart on the defensive end, tallying five of UCSB's six steals. Puentes nabbed the other swipe. Junior goalkeeper Tiago Bonchristiano also registered 12 saves defending the cage.

Fellner led the way with three assists and Jovanovic had two. Jovanovic also had a team-high three drawn exclusions, while Fellner and Jacob Halle had two apiece.

The Gauchos return home this Saturday for a noon matchup with No. 4 Stanford looking for their fifth straight win.