Pipkin Reaches Milestone as No. 11 Gauchos Victorious in Regular Season Finale

Kate Pipkin scored her 40th goal in the Gauchos' 6-3 win over Long Beach State on Saturday afternoon. (Photo by Jeff Liang)
Kate Pipkin scored her 40th goal in the Gauchos' 6-3 win over Long Beach State on Saturday afternoon. (Photo by Jeff Liang)

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – In what was their final match ahead of the Big West Conference Tournament next weekend, the UC Santa Barbara women's water polo team pulled away from Long Beach State in the fourth quarter in what was a tight contest at Campus Pool on Saturday afternoon.

Long Beach State's (15-14, 1-4 Big West) leading goalscorer Orsi Hertzka converted on her penalty attempt to score the game's opening goal with 6:38 left in the first quarter.

Senior attacker Sarah Kreiser levelled the scoreline for the Gauchos (20-7, 3-2 Big West) with a goal with just under two and a half minutes to go in the opening period, pump-faking three times before slotting it into the corner past LBSU goalkeeper Eirini Patras.

With both teams playing disciplined defense, the following two quarters yielded just two goals, one for each side.

With 3:23 left in the second quarter, Long Beach utility Maria Eleni Mimidi put away a shot to put the visitors back on top 2-1.

After the halftime intermission, senior utility Kate Pipkin tied the game back up with her first of two goals from the five-meter spot, this one coming with 2:02 left in the third quarter.

That goal would kickstart a Gaucho run that picked up steam in the fourth quarter, as UCSB used the final seconds of a power play to take the lead for the first time in the game as redshirt junior center defender Shannon Moran found the back of the net just 14 seconds into the final frame.

UCSB wouldn't look back from that point onwards, ratting off three more goals in a two minute, 38 second flurry to lead 6-2.

Two of those came from junior utility Sarah Snyder, finishing on assists from freshman utility Caitlyn Snyder and Kreiser.

The Gauchos' sixth goal was a special one, as Pipkin smoothly floated a penalty shot under the crossbar for her second of the afternoon.

With the goal, Pipkin has now scored 40 or more goals in each of her three seasons in a UCSB uniform since transferring from Indiana after her freshman campaign.

"Whether she's scoring the goal or giving the assist, she's playmaking and always has a hand on the ball. She's a great player and a coach in the water. We'll miss her a lot," said fifth-year UCSB Head Coach Serela Kay.

Long Beach would pull one back with just over three minutes to go in regulation, with second penalty from Hertzka cutting the lead to 6-3, but the 49ers failed to draw inspiration from the goal as the Gauchos comfortably saw the rest of the game out.

"Going into the game, all we talked about was defense. We played great defense- any game with such low scoring, and any time we can hold a team to three goals, it's a good game," remarked Kay.

Pipkin, Moran, and Kreiser, the program's three graduating seniors, were honored in a pregame ceremony to celebrate their UCSB careers.

Next up for the Gauchos is the Big West Conference Tournament, which opens on Friday, April 26 at the Ken Lindgren Aquatics Center in Long Beach, Calif.

UCSB will open the tournament as the No. 4 seed with a rematch of today's game against No. 5-seeded Long Beach State. The match will begin at 1:00 p.m.

"It gives us confidence. It's going to be a battle, it's going to be tough to beat them again, especially at their pool, but this team is ready for the challenge," added Kay.