On paper, it looked like a perfect weekend for the No. 2 Cal women’s water polo team.
The Bears went undefeated in the Spartan Invitational for the second straight year. In doing so, they outscored their opponents 49-23, beat two ranked teams and had 14 different players score.
But Cal coach Richard Corso did not consider the Bears’ performance to be spotless.
“At times, we were very good,” Corso said. “In fact, at times we were almost brilliant. And then other times it’s like, ‘Whoa, what was that?’ We need to be more consistent.”
Consistency was a major problem for the Bears (4-0) in San Jose considering the frequent struggles the team faced over the course of their demanding four-game weekend.
Cal began the season strong, beating Santa Clara, 16-6, in the first match on Saturday. Eleven different players scored for the Bears, who logged four goals in every quarter, thus making it the most consistent effort this weekend.
“We have been emphasizing ‘team’ in everything we do, so it didn’t surprise me that 11 players scored because we played everybody,” Corso said.
In the second match, Cal defeated No. 16 UC Davis, 13-5, behind four goals from junior Kirstn Mase. The Bears jumped out to an early 5-1 advantage but only led, 8-4, at halftime before outscoring the Aggies, 5-1, in the second half.
“At halftime, myself and my assistants gave them some strong words of encouragement to pick up the pace,” Corso said.
Cal opened the second day of competition by narrowly beating Pacific, 9-5. Although sophomore Kelly Mendoza and freshman Marisa Purcell each scored two goals, the offense was lethargic in the early morning game.
“We used the first half as a warm-up and we weren’t firing on all 20 cylinders when the game started,” Corso said. “But when the ball is not dropping that’s one thing, but there is never any excuse to play bad defense, so we did OK.”
The Bears finished the Invitational by defeating No. 17 UC Santa Barbara, 11-7. Cal was unable to shake off the early morning sluggishness and only led the Gauchos, 5-3, at halftime. Junior goalie Lindsay Dorst was able to fend off the Gauchos, making seven saves, before the Bears woke up and took control in the third quarter.
Mase and junior Dana Ochsner accounted for 14 of the team’s goals, seven each, while the 12 other players who scored accounted for the remaining 35 goals, demonstrating Cal’s deep and talented roster.
Although flashes of brilliance may have been tarnished by inconsistency, the Bears learned a lot about their team going forward.
“The most important thing was that we were playing on the road and for us to be a championship team, we are going to have to win championships on the road,” Corso said. “There is a little bit more adversity, and the weather was perfect for what I wanted to accomplish. It’s a good start to the season.”
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