“Patience!” yells Cal assistant coach Matt Flesher at women’s water polo practice. While his words ring throughout Spieker Aquatics Center, Flesher calls over the team after yet another one of junior Breda Voster’s shots is denied. A brief lecture and then Flesher sends the players out again only to call them back after another failed possession. Finally, the Bears put together an impressive offensive series deep into the shot clock, ending the practice.
Since the disappointment at the Stanford Invitational, Cal has been working to correct its inconsistency on both sides of the ball in preparation for its next MPSF match against No. 8 San Jose State at home on Saturday at 1:00 p.m.
“It’s good we haven’t had games the past two weeks, because we have had the chance to work on our weaknesses,” freshman Tiera Schroeder said.
In early February, the Bears (11-2, 1-0 in the MPSF) received a cold dose of reality in Palo Alto, falling to both No. 3 USC and No. 4 UCLA while finishing fourth in a tournament in which they came in ranked No. 2.
“We were good, but there were things we hadn’t quite put together yet at Stanford,” junior Dana Ochsner said. “There are things we are so good at, but others we let slip.”
While the Bears let themselves slip in aspects of their game, they also let themselves slip in the rankings, falling to No. 4 nationally. Despite falling behind No. 2 USC and No. 3 UCLA, the polls mean nothing to Cal.
“It’s a funny thing in water polo, you can beat a team that beats a team by 10 that you lose to,” Ochsner said. “Rankings are always changing. It lets us know where we are, so you know who you need to beat next time, but we never let rankings get to us.”
As No. 4 Cal leaves the 2-2 finish at Stanford in the distant past, the squad’s focus shifts to its second MPSF match against the 8th ranked Spartans.
San Jose State (6-4, 0-1) is in the midst of a three-game losing streak, yet all their losses have come against top-10 opponents.
“San Jose State is one of those schools where you know they’re good, but you don’t always expect it,” Ochsner said. “One of those teams you can’t underestimate.”
The Spartans are led by senior Dani Curran, who ranks No. 11 in the MPSF with 17 goals in 10 matches and junior Anna Natalizio, who also ranks in the top-20 in the MPSF in scoring.
The job of slowing down the Spartans’ offense will fall on the shoulders of junior goalie Lindsay Dorst, whose 8.69 saves per game places her third in the MPSF.
While Dorst will try to hold off the Spartans, Vosters, senior Elizabeth McLare, and sophomore Ashley Young will lead a offense that has explosive potential. Vosters will look to add to her 22 goals total while showcasing the patience the coaches have been looking for.
“We can show how hard we have been working the past two weeks and see if the work has paid off,” Schroeder said. “We can see if our team comes together as a whole now that we have done all this work.”
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