In front of thousands of people at Cal’s first home football game, the members of the 2016 Cal men’s water polo team were honored, receiving their national championship rings Saturday afternoon. Other than celebrating the Bears’ incredible feat of winning the NCAA title last season, it was also a great way to cap off a decisive morning victory against No. 5 Pacific.
In what was predicted to be a challenging match, No. 1 Cal (6-0) held onto its perfect record, defeating the Tigers, 15-11. The Bears clearly made the adjustments necessary to ensure success after their Davis game earlier in the week.
Cal had a strong start to the game, holding Pacific to zero goals by the end of the first quarter and leading 3-0. The first period was the senior show as shots by senior co-captains Luca Cupido and Pedro Stellet, and a goal by Nic Carniglia pushed the Bears ahead.
At the start of the second period, a goal by freshman Nikos Delagrammatikas extended Cal’s lead to 4-0. The rest of the quarter carried on similarly with the Bears never allowing the Tigers never allowing the Tigers closer than three points, ending the half, 8-5. Goals by junior Johnny Hooper, senior Conor Neumann, Cupido and junior Odysseas Masmanidis all allowed Cal to sustain its lead and withhold chances of a comeback from Pacific.
The Tigers opened the door a little bit to start the second half with a quick goal to shorten the Bears’ lead to two. Masmanidis was able to find the net again but two goals by Pacific brought the Tigers within one. Cal was clearly determined to not allow that to happen, however, with Neumann and sophomore Spencer Farrar able to separate the Bears again, reclaiming their three-point lead by the end of the third period.
The score was stagnant until about two minutes into the fourth quarter, until Masmanidis broke through and scored to give the Bears a 12-8 lead with six minutes left. Cal was able to hold on during this last period, allowing three goals by Pacific and scoring four of its own. A goal by Hooper and two by Cupido finalized the win for Cal.
Leading the Bears in scoring was Cupido, who had four goals, followed by Masmanidis who had three. Defending the goal for Cal was senior Kevin LeVine who made ten saves and earned the win in his third start of the season.
The wide range of offensive contributions — with eight players netting goals — is a clear indication of Cal’s offensive strength. And with three US National Team members on the roster, it makes sense. Newcomers are also making an impact with Delagrammatikas and UCLA redshirt sophomore transfer Farrar making appearances on the scoresheet.
Cal has a depth that makes it a top contender for the championship the second year in a row. If the Bears continue to refine their game, the offensive talent and experience make them a clear force to be reckoned with.
Taylor Choe covers men’s water polo. Contact her at [email protected]