No. 1 Cal men’s water polo opens up with 4 victories

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Aditi Raghunath/File

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No matter how much work is put in during the offseason, it always takes some time getting used to match play. But for the No. 1 Cal men’s water polo (4-0), the rust wasn’t too apparent as it won all four games in the Triton Invitational over the weekend.

“It was a good start for us. we got to play a lot of the younger guys and we had some pretty good competition,” said Cal head coach Kirk Everist. “It was a little bit of a test. It wasn’t a bunch of warm-up games. It was a good opening weekend for us just to see what we’ve got and work on putting the pieces back together.”

The Bears had a good start to the tournament, demolishing No. 17 Loyola Marymount 16-1. Senior Kevin Le Vine appeared strong in goal, collecting 10 saves and two steals in his first game of the season. Cal showed off its new talent as two underclassmen, Cameron Wright and Spencer Farrar, led the team in scoring with four goals apiece. Senior Luca Cupido’s presence was heavily felt as well, contributing three goals in addition to shutting down opponents on defense

“Luca came out pretty strong early,” Everist said. “He gave us a little bit of everything as he always does, organizing defense and scoring when he has to and setting up players. That takes time for some of our younger players to learn. He throws a pass to younger players setting them up to score without them even knowing he was setting them up the whole time.”

In the second game of the day, against No. 12 UCSD, the Bears fell behind 2-0 until about the two and a half minute mark of the first period. U.S. National Team member senior Nic Carniglia then scored the first goal of the game for Cal followed by a goal from Cupido to tie it up. The Bears ended up winning 12-7 with redshirt sophomore Spencer Tagg making 11 saves in goal and freshman Nikos Delagrammatikas scoring his first collegiate goal.

Saturday’s double header was a lot of the same. Cal first defeated No. 8 Long Beach State 14-7, never giving the 49ers an opportunity to really get into the game. Le Vine had another successful day starting in goal for the Bears, racking up 17 saves. Cupido and junior Odysseas Masmanidis lead the the Bears in scoring with three each.

Cal’s second Saturday match was the closest of the tournament, as it narrowly beat No. 6 UCSB 8-7. The Bears had a 6-1 lead midway through the third period, but allowed a comeback from the Gauchos. By the start of the fourth period, Cal only lead 7-5 but was able to hold off UCSB from putting the first dent in its perfect record.

The Bears’ depth was on display with many players getting on the board for multiple games. Sophomore Safak Simsek scored two goals twice in two games, while senior Pedro Stellet and redshirt junior Vassilis Tzavaras contributed goals in all four games. In addition, redshirt sophomores Jordan Hoover, Nick Bisconti, and sophomore Mikey Williams all made the most of their time in the water, each tallying up goals of their own.

The Bears’ range of contributors make it a threatening team, and as its members continue to grow more comfortable with one another, Cal should be looking at another successful season.

Taylor Choe covers men’s water polo. Contact her at [email protected]