Cal keeper Lindsay Dorst slammed her fists into the water in triumph.
UCLA’s shot had just flown over the Bears’ net, and cheers rang throughout Spieker Aquatics Center on Saturday. The No. 5 Cal women’s water polo had done it — an 8-6 upset over No. 1 UCLA.
“We finally showed everyone that we deserve this and that we are just as good as every other team,” said junior Dana Ochsner.
From the very first sprint, the game was aggressive, and Cal (17-6, 4-2 in the MPSF) was ready. After one quarter, the Bears had a lead, an unfamiliar position for a team that has struggled in first periods all year long.
Yet it was in the second quarter that Cal asserted itself and played some of its best water polo all year. Cal scored three unanswered goals to begin the second frame, baffling the stalwart Bruins defense.
Cal’s domination forced UCLA coach Brandon Brooks to call a timeout to calm his reeling squad. From then on it was an evenly matched contest, with both teams matching each other goal for goal.
“The girls stayed disciplined to the game plan,” said Cal coach Richard Corso. “In a lot of our games, we play well for four minutes, then have a meltdown for two. We played all four quarters.”
At the 6:24 mark in the fourth period, Cal was up by four goals and seemingly in control of the game. Yet the Bruins (16-2, 5-1) proved why they are ranked first in the country, as they chipped away at the lead.
With the weight of a possible upset resting on their shoulders, the Bears began to play nervously and form a defensive shell. After UCLA pulled within two with 4:06 left, Corso had seen enough and called a timeout.
“I thought I saw a little bit of bleeding and I was going to stop it right away,” Corso said.
Corso told the team to relax and keep playing hard defense; yet with 1:45 left, UCLA was awarded a 6-on-5 advantage only down 8-6.
As the Bruins moved the ball closer to the Bears’ net with every pass, the tension in the stands was palpable. There was still plenty of time for multiple possessions, but UCLA had to score on this one to keep its hopes alive.
A Bruin attacker unleashed a shot. It was blocked by two Cal defenders before it flew over the bar, sealing a huge 8-6 victory for the Bears.
“It’s finally a game were we came together and played as well as we can play,” Vosters said. “Being able to beat a team like that gives us such a confidence boost.”