Rackov leads offensive attack as Cal routs three opponents

In Saturday’s match against Pacific, National Player of the Year Ivan Rackov led the No. 3 Cal men’s water polo team with four goals.

That number is pretty much par for the course when you look at his stats from the season thus far. As the leading scorer in the MPSF, Rackov has already accumulated 29 goals in the last seven matches — an average of 4.1 goals per game.

At the Chris Kjeldsen pool in Stockton, Calif., Rackov notched the first two points for Cal to give his team a 2-1 lead by the end of the first quarter. The Bears held onto that advantage throughout the next three periods before finally taking a 8-6 win over the Tigers.

While Cal (8-1) seemed to lag in the middle of the nonconference tilt, they never had a scoreless quarter. Attackers Zach Greenwood and Marin Balarin both notched one point each, while goalie Justin Parsons held the opponents scoreless in the second period.

Both teams had a final surge in the fourth quarter, but a strong Cal defense outmaneuvered Pacific. The Tigers (4-3) added three points in the last seven minutes, but Parsons’ four blocks ensured that that number didn’t climb any higher. Meanwhile, Rackov balanced out his performance with two more goals, while Luka Saponjic, who also paced Cal with five assists, earned a point as well. Sophomore Giacomo Cupido, who got the chance to start for the first time in his collegiate career earlier this season, tallied a goal as well.

However, the weekend wasn’t over for the Bears. After returning back to Berkeley for the night, the team ventured out to UC Davis Sunday morning to compete in the Aggie Shootout.

In an 11:30 a.m. match on Sunday, the squad drew from its deep bench, particularly along the goalie and attacker positions, to shut down Fresno Pacific in a 17-1 trouncing.

Goalie Wil Toppen, who started two years ago and is number three on the depth chart, opened the match in the cage. Toppen only allowed one goal in the first quarter when Nick Fadden capitalized on a six-on-five advantage to score the first point of the game.

The Bears allowed the Sunbirds (4-11) few scoring opportunities — they were too busy notching serious points of their own.

Senior Matt Golden paced the team with five goals in his 2011 debut, while redshirt freshman Blake Kelly added three.

In its final match of the weekend, Cal brought back a strong regular lineup to topple No. 15 Santa Clara, 18-2, on Sunday afternoon. After his early-morning hiatus, Rackov paced the team once again with five goals, while Parsons also returned to record eight blocks across all four periods. Similar to the match against Fresno Pacific, the Bears scored five goals in each of the first three periods before shutting down the Broncos, 3-0, in the fourth period.

This was the second time Cal overpowered Santa Clara (9-6); at the Cal Bear Invitational earlier this month, the Bears utilized a home court advantage to defeat the Broncos, 21-3, in their season opener.