SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – The UC Santa Barbara women's water polo team recently wrapped up another outstanding season, as it set a new program record with 22 wins before claiming a third-place finish at the 2019 Big West Tournament. This past Monday, the Gauchos celebrated the historic campaign with their annual end-of-season banquet, where they handed out team awards as voted by the players and selected their captains for next year.
For the second straight season, UCSB tied a program record with five student-athletes earning All-Big West accolades. Among those five was Second Team selection and this year's team MVP and Golden Eagle Award winner: Sarah Snyder.
In her third year with the team, the junior utility continued to put up increasingly robust numbers, setting numerous career-highs as she led Santa Barbara with 66 goals, 31 drawn exclusions and an incredibly accurate .584 shooting percentage. The 66 goals were good for third in the conference and the most of any Gaucho in six years. The Fresno, Calif. native was also one of two Gauchos to be named Big West Player of the Week this year, earning the honor as she helped UCSB post a 9-1 record through 10 games, the best start in program history.
The name "Snyder" has been seen all over the place for UCSB these past two seasons, whether it has pertained to Sarah racking up goals or to goalkeeper Kenzi Snyder's incredible clutch saves. This year however, especially down the stretch, there would be yet another Snyder who captured the spotlight – freshman utility Caitlyn Snyder.
The younger sister of Sarah, Caitlyn became a consistent force over the second half of the season, as she went on to lead the team with 33 assists, tied for third in the Big West. She closed the regular season with seven multi-goal efforts in 10 appearances to end up with 63 points on the year, good for third-most on the team. Her efforts would result in her garnering an All-Big West Freshman Team nod and being crowned UCSB's Rookie of the Year.
The Gauchos didn't reach 22 wins by relying solely on offensive firepower, though. Playing a huge role on the other end of the pool all season long was center defender Amelia "Meck" Meckelborg, who was voted the team's Defensive Specialist of the Year. The former Dos Pueblos High School standout ranked among the team's leaders with 18 steals and five field blocks as a sophomore. She also chipped in on the other end with one goal and 11 assists.
Appearing in about half of the games this season, freshmen Jordan Castillo and Julia Santos also took home awards. Castillo showed signs of growth throughout the year and was named the team's Most Improved Player. Santos meanwhile earned the Nick Johnson Inspiration Award, given to the player who exemplifies traits such as selflessness, teamwork and extraordinary work ethic both inside and outside of the pool.
As the Gauchos bid adieu to a superb 2019 senior class which included attacker Sarah Kreiser, utility Kate Pipkin and defender Shannon Moran, the team now shifts its focus towards the upcoming 2020 campaign. Selected as the team's two co-captains for next year, both of whom will be seniors: Sarah Snyder and Kate Coski.
With young talent and a solid returning core, UCSB will be primed for another strong run both in its own conference and against other top teams in the country next season.