Cal men’s water polo dominates at Aggie Round Up

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Ariel Hayat/File

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It would be impressive in almost every sport to earn more than double the number of points as one’s opponent. It is an even greater feat to do this three times in one weekend against three adversaries. At this past weekend’s Aggie Round Up, Cal men’s water polo was able to accomplish this triumph — and make it look easy.

The theme of the weekend for the Bears was scoring early and scoring often. The curse of the slow start that had plagued them against USC at the NorCal Tournament was seemingly remedied as Cal put away nine goals in the first half, leading to the 17-7 win against San Jose State, its first opponent. SJSU, however, did not go down easily. At the end of the fourth quarter, from about three-quarters of the way out, freshman driver Parker Blacksten blasted a goal past Cal junior keeper Peter O’Laughlin.

The early lead against the Spartans allowed Cal coach Kirk Everist to make some lineup changes and grant pool time to a wider range of players. Among these was sophomore center Pedro Stellet, who contributed two goals, the first of which came a little after a minute into the game off an assist from powerhouse freshman Johnny Hooper.

“I thought Pedro Stellet had a really good weekend,” Everist said. “His energy was really good with bringing it every game and every minute.”

Hooper, who scored a trifecta of goals against the Spartans, cotinued his streak against Santa Clara, the Bears’ second adversary, finding the back of the net three times in the first quarter. The Bears also seemed to understand that they couldn’t win if they didn’t score and that they couldn’t score if they didn’t shoot — Cal took 34 shots to the Broncos’ 19. The 15-4 win over Santa Clara also saw multiple goal contributions from Chandler Jarrels, Luca Cupido, Colin Mulcahy and Odysseas Masmanidis.

The Bears continued their domination in the second day of the tournament, as they rolled over Concordia and Fresno Pacific, 19-4 and 25-10, respectively. Every Bear received playing time against the Eagles, with nine players scoring goals. O’Laughlin, who shut out Concordia in the fourth quarter, prevented the Eagles’ offense from finding its rhythm, with five stopped shots.

The only time Cal seemed to waver was against Fresno Pacific, where the teams emerged from the first quarter locked in a 3-3 tie. Masmanidis led his team with three goals in the second quarter, acting as a catalyst for the nine-goal explosion that allowed the Bears a comfortable 12-5 lead at the half. The avalanche of scoring only continued throughout the second half with a three-goal and four-assist performance from Cupido.

Although they won handily, the Bears had little opportunity to improve upon their 6 versus 5 offense, an aspect of their game that Everist believes his team still needs to practice.

The tournament did, however, allow Cal to work on its ability to get the ball to its offensive centers — something it struggled with at the NorCal Tournament against more competitive teams, such as USC and UCLA. Moving forward, Cal must continue to work on its pressure defense and preventing opponents from getting good looks.

“It was a good weekend to work on some specific things that we wanted to accomplish and try to iron out some things on how we wanted to play offensively and defensively,” Everist said. “It was a good weekend to be able to work on things with everybody.”

Sophie Goethals covers men’s water polo. Contact him at [email protected]