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Our Stories: The First National Championship

As the final seconds clicked down on the scoreboard, chants of “We’re number one” filled the Belmont Plaza Olympic Pool in Long Beach, Calif. With a final score of 11 to 3, UCSB men’s water polo defeated UCLA to capture the Gaucho’s first NCAA title.

The atmosphere was reminiscent of UCSB home games. Fans would rally in the stands, cheering on their blue and gold to domination in the pool. Opposing teams were always in for a tough time when visiting Santa Barbara for a game. Gaucho crowds knew how to motivate out of the pool.  
John Dobrott remembered, “This place would be packed for our home games. It would just be so loud.”
Leading the Gauchos in the NCAA Championship game, Greg Boyer scored five times and earned Most Valuable Player title for the tournament. UCSB played their hearts out and five players became part of the All-Tournament Teams. On the First Team were Craig Wilson, Greg Boyer, and John Dobrott.  The Second Team included Dave Phillips and Steve Mitchell.
It was the perfect ending for a year filled with countless hours of dedication and hard work.
Many of the team members acknowledged Coach Pete Snyder for getting the team into peak physical shape. Coach Snyder pushed the team to their fullest potential and credited the players for accepting his philosophy. 
Mike Yates reflected on their work effort, “We always worked harder than anyone else, individually and as a team.”
“Everybody was devoted and wanted to win,” added Joel Wade.

Winning the first NCAA championship was not the only record the men’s water polo team set for UCSB. They still hold the highest winning percentage (.903 with a 28-2-1 record), most goals scored (366), and the second-longest winning streak (12), broken 40 years later by the 2019 team.

One major factor for the Gauchos was team unity. The 1979 water polo team had strong team bonds that inspired them to keep playing hard, even if their bodies were wearing down.
John Dobrott said, “We had a great team chemistry.”
“It was a really good group of guys,” declared Bill Yates.
Today, the members of the 1979 UCSB men’s water polo team maintain that closeness. Various players from the team still get together to socialize or play Master’s Water Polo.
“To have that group of guys stay together, pretty much the core guys stay together and still playing, is unprecedented,” said Bill Yates. “I don’t think you can find another story like that out there.”
Grabbing UCSB’s first national championship will live on forever in the school’s history and a banner will continue to fly in Rob Gym as a reminder. Since 1979, the men’s water polo team continues to be a threat in the pool, hoping to taste the achievements of that historic team.