No. 3 Cal men’s water polo to battle No. 12 UC Davis

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Karen Chow/File

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The No. 3 Cal men’s water polo team will once again be on the road, this time heading to the home of its Northern California stepsister No. 12 Davis. The Aggies are not only disparagingly below Cal in rolling terrain, but men’s water polo also seems to be a real focal point of differentiation between the two.

The Bears, fresh off a 4-0 road trip to the Princeton Invitational, should be extremely confident in their abilities to come out of the UC Davis Aggie Roundup with similar results. All of the teams that Cal will be facing this weekend are ranked outside the top 10.

“I think the biggest challenge for this weekend will be everyone staying on the same page and getting the job done, not trying to do anything out of the ordinary and just continuing our gameplan of working as a team,” said redshirt senior Farrel South.

In an early Saturday morning match, the Bears will play No. 16 Cal Baptist to begin the tournament. The Lancers (3-3) were dominated by No. 2 USC, 3-16, and No. 1 UCLA, 4-14, in a rough but expected start to their season. Cal Baptist barely lost to No. 14 Brown, 8-10, before going on a three-game win streak. The Lancers defeated smaller schools Wagner, Connecticut College and Fordham in similar fashion to how they were beaten by the two top ranked California schools. Cal should not have a problem with this match that’ll act as a a nice warmup for the rest of the tournament.

Later that day, the Bears will play No. 20 Santa Clara (3-2) in what should be another fairly easy game. In their first game of the season, the Broncos barely fell to San Jose State, 9-10, in a disappointing loss. Santa Clara also attended the Princeton Invitational last weekend but was excluded from the perfect record club, going 3-1 for the tournament.

Cal will begin its Sunday with a late-morning matchup versus the host of the tournament, Davis. The Aggies (4-1) lost their first game to No. 9 Harvard, 12-13, in a heartbreaker. To prevent another upset loss, they have since then stepped up their game. Davis currently has a four-game win streak, defeating Brown, No. 19 George Washington, No. 18 St. Francis and No. 17 San Jose State. The Aggies should not be too confident about keeping up this streak before facing Cal though, as the top five ranked teams seem to always dominate the surrounding competition.

To end the tournament, in an after-lunch special, the Bears are scheduled to play liberal arts school Claremont McKenna-Mudd-Scripps. The Stags are currently 2-4 for the season. CMS lost its first match to No. 9 Pepperdine, 8-15, and was later destroyed by No. 5 Stanford, 3-15. The Stags won their next two games before going on a two-game losing streak. In all fairness, CMS has played Division 1 teams that are known for having much stronger water polo programs, which is a valid excuse for having a losing record.

The Bears have yet to face any serious competition that could put their perfect record at risk and probably won’t again this weekend. With redshirt freshman Jordan Hoover, who was named MPSF Newcomer of the Week, in addition to the typical stars, sophomore Johnny Hooper, and juniors Luca Cupido and Nic Carniglia, Cal should continue its winning streak. These matches are a good way for the Bears to come together as a team and adjust to their new teammates, many of whom are still getting used to college water polo.

“I think this team has grown since the loss of (Andrew) Schnugg, (Thomas) Agramonte, (Colin) Mulcahy,” South said. “Colin and Thomas were big contributors, and I think if this team can bounce back from losing them and continue to have same competitive drive we can have a really successful season. We’ve been growing stronger as a team with the new coming guys … hoping to get that ring.”

Taylor Choe covers men’s water polo. Contact her at [email protected]