With final exams only five weeks away, some Cal students have already begun to prepare for the culmination of the academic year. It’d be a shame if a semester’s worth of work is wasted because of a lack of preparation.
Likewise, the women’s water polo season is coming to an end, and its version of finals — the MPSF and NCAA tournaments — are fast approaching. While the No. 5 Cal women’s water polo team has been reeling a bit lately, it should use the last two regular-season games to thoroughly prepare for the upcoming tournaments, as they will ultimately determine how successful this season has been.
Flashback to about a month and a half ago, and Cal was sitting comfortably at 10-1. Then, rogue winds hit and the Bears having been treading dangerous waters ever since. With the perfectly timed storm of injuries to key players and matchups against top-ranked opponents, Cal has been a rather pedestrian 3-5 since, including three straight losses in conference play. The Bears, however, will have a chance to right the ship Saturday, as they travel down the I-880 to take on No. 16 San Jose State.
A matchup against the Spartans (9-14 overall, 0-2 MPSF) presents the perfect bounceback opportunity for the Bears. Cal has dominated SJSU the previous three times the teams have met this season, with the Bears winning all three games by an average of 8.3 goals.
“It’s crucial that we don’t overlook (San Jose State),” said Cal senior Genevieve Weed. “The three times that we’ve played them this season, we’ve won, but that shouldn’t make us underestimate them. We really need to come out hard and try to get the momentum going into the last conference game and into the conference tournament.”
While the Spartans had a bye week to prepare for this game, they will again have their backs against the wall if the Bears can exploit their porous defense. As a team, SJSU has given up 10.3 goals per game this season, including 15 or more on six different occasions. Even though the Cal offense has not been stellar for the past three games, it was also facing three of the top four defensive teams in the MPSF during that stretch. Therefore, it’s reasonable to believe that the Bears can take full advantage of the Spartans’ shortcomings on defense.
“(Against Stanford), we saw some of our weakness,” Weed said. “Overall we’re trying to figure some things out offensively and defensively before we come to the end of our season. It just showed that there’s definitely stuff that we can work on.”
If Cal does not come away with a victory this weekend, it’ll be digging itself an even deeper hole. The Bears end their season against top-ranked USC, which is undefeated this season. Cal certainly is talented enough to make a deep run in the NCAA tournament, but the team must finish the season strong if it wants to head into its finals well prepared.
Leo Liu covers women’s water polo. Contact him at [email protected].