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No. 19 Gauchos Close Winter Invite Strong with 5-1 Record

Drew Halvorson (Photo by Jeff Liang)
Drew Halvorson (Photo by Jeff Liang)

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – The No. 19 UC Santa Barbara women's water polo team closed out a great season-opening weekend with a 5-1 record hosting the 2023 UCSB Winter Invite, defeating Ottawa 18-6 before taking its first loss of the season to No. 3-T UCLA 11-6.

UCSB 18, Ottawa 6
Goalscorers: Caitlyn Snyder (4), Cami Mras (3), Annie Kuester (3), Sarah Owens (2), Aidan Flynn (2), Juju Amaral, Mary Beth Heffelfinger, Bianca Borunda, Emily Ferguson
Saves: Taylor McEvilly (6)

The Gauchos got another wire-to-wire victory to begin the day against Ottawa (0-5), led by four goals on four shots by senior Caitlyn Snyder. She and Cami Mras shared an even split of the first quarter scoring as UCSB led 4-1 through one.

Three more Gauchos struck in the second to make it a 7-1 lead as UCSB cruised to the win the rest of the way, ending the game on a 7-0 run. Mras and Annie Kuester finished with hat tricks, while Sarah Owens and Aidan Flynn both scored twice.

Goalkeeper Taylor McEvilly had six saves and a steal playing every minute in the cage.

Goalscorers: Imani Clemons (3), Leigh Lyter, Caitlyn Snyder, Cami Mras
Saves: Madison Walker (10)

Santa Barbara competed hard in its toughest test of the early season, ending the weekend by hanging tight with the third-ranked Bruins (5-0) for much of the game.

After a 2-0 start for UCLA, Snyder found Imani Clemons inside for a quick turn-and-shoot that snuck inside the left post. On a power play early in the second, Owens found Leigh Lyter rising high to knock it in and tie it at 2-2.

Another Bruin goal was answered when Snyder got behind the defense to draw a penalty shot, which Mras was just able to sneak in under the goalkeeper. In the final minute of a tightly contested, defensive-minded first half, UCLA scored the two more goals to take a 5-3 lead and momentum into the break.

The Gauchos continued to show their resiliency in the third. The Bruins struck first, but UCSB stayed strong on defense and scored back-to-back goals, first from Snyder and then from Clemons on a Snyder assist to make it 6-5 in favor of UCLA. However, It would be all Bruins down the stretch, as they put the game to bed with five unanswered fourth quarter goals.

Facing by far the best offense she saw this weekend, goalkeeper Madison Walker was excellent once again, finishing with 10 saves, the first double-digit effort of her freshman season.

Next weekend, the Gauchos travel to New Jersey to play four games at the Princeton Invite. The action starts Friday against Long Island University.