No. 4 Cal women’s water polo prepares for California Speedo Cup I

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Phillip Downey/File

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It takes a lot of confidence to assume your art will necessitate sequels. The first Star Wars film had to be retroactively renamed so that its sequels’ names would make sense. No such adjustment will be needed for the brand new and confidently named California Speedo Cup I. If the No. 4 Cal women’s water polo team can also show that cockiness in its play this weekend, it should have no trouble grabbing the inaugural title.

The Speedo Cup I should be the highlight of the weekend for the team, but it can also look forward to its home opener the day before, Friday. After beginning the season 2-0 with wins against No. 17 San Jose State and No. 13 University of Pacific, the Bears will face No. 22 California State University, Northridge in the Bears’ return to Spieker Aquatic Center.

The Matadors have had an incredibly tough beginning to their season, facing three top-15 teams in their first four matches and losing to all three. Their loss to No. 15 Indiana was brutally close, 6-4, but they were simply outclassed by No. 2 USC and No. 8 Michigan, losing by an aggregate score of 34-8. They have only scored two goals in the fourth period all season, so if the Bears have a late lead it could be game over.

The first Speedo Cup will see San Jose State and CSUN included (although neither is playing Cal) while adding No. 14 Long Beach State and No. 19 UC Davis to the mix as well. There may be three other ranked teams in the draw, but Cal is simply of a different pedigree. Six Bears have been All-Americans in some form, while the other four programs combine to have four players named to the honor in 2016.

The strange format of the Speedo Cup I will see each of the five teams play just two of the other programs, perhaps just to have some plot left to tell in the sequels. Cal will play Long Beach, which has not yet competed this season, and the Aggies, who sport an unwieldy 0-4 record.

Long Beach finished 17-12 last year, and Cal’s biggest goal will probably be to stop junior Virginia Smith and sophomore Tori Morrissey, who finished last season with a team-leading 45 and 40 goals, respectively. The Bears should be able to capitalize on offense since Long Beach will be breaking in a new goalie as last year’s primary starter, Alexis Butler, graduated.

UC Davis was absolutely walloped by No. 1 Stanford and No. 3 UCLA earlier in the season, so if the Bears want to show they’re on the same level as those schools, they will most likely need to win by double digits.

No one has broken ahead of the pack in scoring for the Bears, with sophomore Rachael Lewin currently in the lead for goals scored with five. Two other players have four, and another has three, so by the end of the weekend the leaderboard could be shaken up.

In the entertainment industry, January and February are a dumping ground for minor movies while the summer is time for sequel-spanning franchises. But this weekend, the California Speedo Cup I has promised to be the rare winter blockbuster, so get your popcorn ready.

Andrew Wild is the assistant sports editor. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @andrewwild17.