After spending the last tournament in the welcoming embrace of its home pool, the No. 4 Cal women’s water polo team (5-0) will be venturing to more hostile waters for this weekend’s Stanford Invitational.
The tournament includes seven other nationally ranked foes, a veritable panoply of talent to rival that of the unbeaten Bears. Among the competition are No. 1 Stanford, No. 8 Hawaii, No. 6 UC Irvine, No. 20 Loyola Marymount and the three other opponents that Cal will face in the opening rounds.
Cal will first come up against No. 16 San Jose State (2-4) on Saturday afternoon. The Bears have already beaten the Spartans this year in Cal’s first game of the season, 12-3. In that season opener, Cal was stellar on both offense and defense, scoring at least two goals per quarter and shutting out SJSU in the second, third and fourth periods. Perhaps the only thing that could jeopardize a win for the Bears in this situation is overconfidence — if they enter the match sloppy and cocky, Spartan stars Carla Toha Vilanova and Donia Momen could certainly take advantage. That being said, as long as Cal continues to play at a high level, it should have no trouble beating SJSU for the second time in 2017.
In their second game of the weekend, the Bears will take on No. 7 University of Michigan (3-2). Despite the Wolverines’ distance from a major body of salt water, their adeptness in the pool should not be underestimated. Junior Caroline Anderson, who will be returning to her home city for this tournament, is the University of Michigan’s best offensive weapon and has tallied eight goals and eight assists already this season. And Anderson isn’t the only player the Bears will have to be keenly aware of. The Wolverines have three other players who have scored at least eight goals so far this season: Julia Sellers with 11, Kim Johnson with nine and Maddy Steere with eight.
Cal goalies Madeline Trabucco and Madison Tagg, along with the rest of the Bears’ defensive unit, will have to be on their game if they want to stop Michigan’s powerhouse offense, which has scored 8.8 goals per game.
In what will be the final game for the Bears if they don’t move out of their bracket, they will play No. 18 UC Davis (1-5). Cal has already beaten the Aggies this season, 11-9, at the California Speedo Cup I. The game was the toughest the Bears have played this season, and there’s no reason to expect that UC Davis won’t put up a fight again.
The Aggies are led by Paige Virgil and Greta Kohlmoos, who have both scored nine goals this season. UC Davis also boasts two goalkeepers who average at least seven saves per game, a wall that could make scoring difficult for the Bears’ offense.
Despite how good their opponents look, though, there is no doubt that the Bears have the tools to emerge victorious at this weekend’s tournament. With a perfect undefeated record, along with Dora Antal being named MPSF/KAP 7 player of the week, Cal has proven that it has what it takes to compete with the top teams in the country. It’s just a matter of being able to carry it out.
Sophie Goethals is the assistant sports editor. Contact her at [email protected]