When it comes to playing at the highest level of collegiate water polo, all it takes is one great play and a split second of luck to come out on top.
The No. 3 seeded Cal men’s water polo team can attest to this as it faced No. 2 seeded UCLA on Friday to kick start the MPSF Tournament. After going back and forth for the entirety of the match, the Bears (20-4) fell to the Bruins (25-2) in double overtime, 11-10. A goal by UCLA junior Alex Roelse at the start of the second overtime was enough to seal the deal for the Bruins and send them back to the MPSF Championship game.
“We definitely had shots at the end of regulation, and into overtime we had shots and didn’t put them away,” said Cal head coach Kirk Everist. “UCLA executed really well offensively on our defense and got that lead. We’ll definitely take a look at a few things on video and try and figure out a way to come away with the win.”
Four goals by sophomore Johnny Hooper and three by fellow sophomore Odysseas Masmanidis weren’t quite enough to give the Bears the win. The frustration was apparent as senior goalkeeper Lazar Andric splashed the water each time UCLA got a ball past him in the final minutes of the game. But despite the tough loss, Cal was able to bounce back by putting on impressive performances for the remainder of the weekend.
The Bears faced Penn State Behrend (0-26) on Saturday, destroying the Lions, 17-4. Because of Cal’s apparent dominance, freshman Bernardo Carelli was given time in the goal, making 13 saves. Hooper had another strong offensive performance, along with senior Farrel South, both tallying up three goals. Cal was lead by none other than redshirt freshman Jordan Hoover, who scored three out of his four goals in the third period alone.
Sunday should have been a much different story, but the Bears seemed to be out for real vengeance. Cal handily defeated No. 4 seeded Stanford, 15-9, to capture third place in the MPSF Championships.
“We got a pretty big lead last week and lost focus in fourth quarter,” Everist said. “This game, we kind of kept that going. We had a couple of lapses in moments, but we were able to let one or two goals in and then come back with our own goals. We came out with good defense and made sure we were getting stops.”
Cal’s offense started rolling in the second period, with goals by Masmanidis and senior Thomas Carroll. The Bears were up 7-3 at the half, thanks to another goal by Carroll and a goal by Cupido. Cal continued to extend its lead throughout the second half, ending the third quarter up 11-6. Unlike when the Bears played the Cardinal last weekend, they didn’t allow a fourth quarter comeback this time around.
Leading Cal’s scoring were, once again, Hooper and Cupido, who had four and three goals, respectively. Andric didn’t even have to play the entire game due the Bears’ lead, and Carelli was subbed in.
Third place in the MPSF, which includes the top three collegiate teams in the country, is not a bad position to be in.
“It’s going to be tough tournament,” Everist said. “We’ll be in the play in game, and they’ll probably settle that tonight. If we can get through that, then we’ll probably have UCLA again, and the tournament will probably play out like the conference tournament. It’ll be a tough game and we need to figure out a way to put a couple shots away.”
The Bears will most likely have their final chance to defeat the Bruins in an NCAA game that will bear more weight than their past three meetings combined.
As the saying goes, fourth time’s a charm. Right?
Taylor Choe covers men’s water polo. Contact her at email@example.com