The Cal women’s water polo team is about to hit rough waters on its journey back to the NCAA championship.
The success of the voyage will fall on the shoulders of the team’s four leaders, senior Elizabeth McLaren, juniors Breda Vosters and Dana Ocshner and sophomore Ashley Young.
Although it hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing for the Bears, they have managed to stay afloat in the national landscape and maintain their confidence.
“I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think we could win it, but it’s more important that they know they can win it,” said coach Richard Corso.
No. 4 Cal escaped No. 8 Irvine this past weekend with an 8-6 victory. However, the days of easy opponents and tune-up tournaments are over for Cal (15-4, 2-0 in the MPSF).
Cal’s next four games are MPSF matches in which the team is pitted against opponents all ranked in the top five nationally. If the Bears hope to emerge unscathed, they will have to count on their leaders.
McLaren is one of two seniors on the Cal roster and has been especially vocal in the pool during close games, keeping the young Bears together.
“It has been a growing experience for her,” Corso said. “She has found out how difficult it is to play well, keep your head screwed on correctly and try and help your teamates. She is doing the best she possibly can.”
Vosters has been a leader on the offensive end for the Bears this year, scoring 32 goals in just 17 games and netting the game-clinching goal against Irvine.
“I feel confident with the ball in my hands and if you ask the coaches they might say ‘too’ confident,” Vosters said. “I love to shoot but I also set up my teammates.”
Cal will need Voster’s offensive prowess against the upcoming MPSF teams, which have stifling defenses that each allow under 6.5 goals per game. Vosters can count on Young and her 23 goals to lessen her offensive burden.
“In the next eight to nine weeks weeks she can really come around,” Corso said. “She is not a freshman anymore. She is a sophomore which has put her in more of a leadership role.”
Although Vosters and Young get all the offensive accolades, it is the work of Ochsner that creates the oppurtunities for her teammates. A 20-second battle for position in front of the net may not reward Ochsner with a goal, but she can live with that as long as Cal succeeds.
“If I am in good position down deep, that will usually draw people in and give Cal a chance to get a good shot off,” Ochsner said.