When asked if he was happy with tying his career high of 20 saves against Stanford on Saturday, senior Lazar Andric had only one thing to say:
“What do you think?” Andric said, laughing.
Leading the No. 3 Cal men’s water polo team to an 11-10 win over No. 6 Stanford, it seemed very fitting that Andric, along with the team’s three other seniors — Farrel South, Chandler Jarrels and Thomas Carroll — was honored in his last regular season home game.
“I think we had good opportunities early,” said Cal head coach Kirk Everist. “(Odysseas Masmanidis) finally started finding the goal a little bit for us and that helped. We were getting good opportunities at two meters. I think we had opportunities in the first half, they just didn’t go in. In the second half, third quarter, we were able to get a little separation.”
The Cardinal (12-6) were able to get on the scoreboard first with a goal by sophomore Blake Parrish, but Cal (18-3) quickly countered with a goal by junior Luca Cupido. By the end of the first quarter, Andric already had nine saves. The Bears were up 5-3 at the half with two goals by Masmanidis and one apiece by fellow sophomore Johnny Hooper and junior Nic Carniglia.
Cal seemed to come to life offensively at the beginning of the second half, with goals by Cupido and Hooper within the first two minutes. In a power play, Hooper assisted Cupido, a move that was followed by another assist by Hooper to Masmanidis to give both three goals for the game and Cal a 9-4 lead. Andric finished the third period with 18 saves.
“I just wanted to come out and play the game, win, do my best,” Andric said. “The first two quarters were amazing. That last quarter got us into a little bit of trouble, 11-10 at the end. Not the score that it should’ve been, but we still won. We have to learn from that and move forward.”
The Bears seemed to be on their way to a blowout, with a goal by Vassilis Tzavaras in the fourth to make the score 11-6. But it was about halfway through the last quarter that Cal seemed to slow down offensively, allowing the Cardinal to rally and score four goals within five minutes.
“We were playing a possession, not the situation of the game,” Everist said. “We weren’t patient with the ball. We didn’t see that it wasn’t a great shot, and it’s OK to give up an offensive opportunity and cover ourselves on defense. And three or four times you have a team that’s down by that much, when the ball’s shot, they’re all going to go 100 miles an hour.”
The Bears were able to run down the clock in the end, taking the win and keeping the Steve Heaston Trophy in Berkeley. The successful end to Cal’s regular season indicates that it should have confidence going into the MPSF tournament, which will begin with another rematch versus No. 1 UCLA. Despite the fact that Cal is not guaranteed to make it back to play at Spieker in NCAAs, that seems highly unlikely considering the team’s season-long success. And Andric seems to agree.
“This is not our last game at Spieker, I promise you that,” Andric said.
Taylor Choe covers men’s water polo. Contact her at [email protected]