Forty-three seconds were left in the Cal women’s water polo consolation game against USC on Sunday, and the Bears were in the midst of their final timeout, the team’s postseason fate on the line.
Cal needed to beat the third-seeded Trojans to earn a third-place finish in the MPSF tournament and a chance to advance to the NCAA Tournament. Yet the team’s chances were becoming slimmer and slimmer with each passing moment. Having already lost out on a chance to advance to the final, Cal watched the clock expire, its season coming to an end with a 6-4 loss to USC.
In a season where the Bears seemed to never give up hope of returning to the NCAA championship game, the MPSF Tournament finally squashed what little hope they had left.
Although the Bears (18-9) finished fourth in the MPSF tournament, Cal should not be expecting a call from the NCAA championship selection committee anytime soon.
Although the squad had lost out on the automatic bid a day before after losing to Stanford, the Bears still had an outside chance at an at-large bid. They needed to beat the Trojans (21-5) convincingly in Sunday’s consolation match at Avery Aquatics Center in Stanford, Calif.
The game was a low scoring affair, with both teams struggling to find the back of the net. Cal junior keeper Lindsay Dorst matched USC sophomore keeper Flora Bolonyai, totaling seven blocks.
USC started distancing itself in the third quarter, leading 6-3 at the end of the frame. Although both teams were playing top-notch defense, Cal’s inability to score was the difference. The Bears couldn’t move the ball close to the net, having to settle for long shots on multiple occasions.
At the beginning of the fourth quarter, Dorst gave her best effort to keep the Bears in it, making saves and coming out for steals. Vosters capitalized on a penalty shot near the halfway mark in the fourth to pull Cal within two.
But four minutes later, the Bears found themselves chasing the Trojans around as they ran out the clock. USC successfully kept the ball away from Cal as time expired, ending the game and Cal’s season.
Sophomore Ashley Young accounted for half of Cal’s scoring output with two goals. USC had a much more balanced attack, with each goal coming from a different athlete.
The Bears began the tournament with a 13-12 overtime thriller against fourth-seeded Arizona State. Four players posted hat tricks, including four goals apiece from senior Elizabeth McLaren and junior Dana Ochsner.
Ochsner’s final goal came with 1:31 left in overtime, propelling the Bears into the semifinal.
Stanford quickly brought Cal back down to earth the next day, routing the Bears 12-5. Early in the second half, junior Breda Vosters and McLaren both scored to pull Cal to within two.
That would be the end of their scoring against the Cardinal. Stanford’s stifling defense and balanced offense quickly put the game out of reach.