With every game comes the good and the bad. Just like with most sports it takes improvement in some areas at the expense others in order to drastically improve as a whole.
When the No. 1 Cal men’s water polo team (8-0) played against No. 8 Pepperdine (12-2) on Friday afternoon, it was apparent that the Bears had some things to work on. The game was a combination of frustration, excitement and relief as the offense struggled to keep Cal on top — ultimately barely skating by the Waves, 8-6. On Saturday versus No. 13 UCSD (3-6), however, Cal destroyed the Tritons, winning 20-10.
“I think it’s still a work in progress,” said Cal head coach Kirk Everist. “Friday, I think we struggled on the offensive end but we were able to keep it under control defensively and not let it get to be a high scoring game. That kind of kept us in there long enough to string a couple goals in a row together. But we weren’t very patient and we didn’t attack Pepperdine very well, in my opinion.”
Friday’s game was close from the start, with the Bears never really pulling away in a way that had been expected. Their largest lead came at the beginning of the fourth period with a goal by junior Johnny Hooper to make the score 7-4. The Waves made a comeback attempt soon thereafter, getting within one, but their efforts were too little too late, when senior Nic Carniglia’s goal right before the buzzer sealed the win for Cal.
“Saturday, we definitely dusted off the offense and came out strong and were able to get a pretty sizable lead pretty early into that third quarter,” Everist said. “It was a better performance than the first time we played against San Diego. I thought we were able to get some good minutes from a lot of different people.
Saturday, the Bears lead 6-2 by the end of the first period thanks to goals from sophomore Safak Simsek, Hooper, junior Luca Cupido, sophomore Spencer Farrar, and two from junior Odysseas Masmanidis. Cal continued to build its lead to end the half ahead 12-5 with Hooper, Cupido, freshmen Ryan Hurst and Cameron Wright and senior Carniglia relentlessly making shots.
And the second half was simply an extension of the first — the pace was set again when Cupido score just 13 seconds into the third quarter. Goals by Masmanidis, junior Vassilis Tzavaras, Simsek, freshman Ethan Wojciechowski, and senior Connor Reid displayed the Bears’ dominance in this game, making the score 19-7 to end the third period. Cal had built a big enough lead that it didn’t require much effort in the fourth quarter, with sophomore Jordan Hoover being the only one to score.
“All in all it was a good learning experience, good development for the weekend and kind of springboarding into this weekend,” Everist said. “I thought it was a team effort and we had a lot of good moments from a lot of different people — our veterans and our young guys alike.”
The fact that the Bears were able to perform well on the defensive end while their offense was lacking is a good sign. And visible improvement in the previous day’s trouble area displays Cal’s ability to continuously work hard. As the saying goes, offense wins games but defense wins championships.
Taylor Choe covers men’s water polo. Contact her at [email protected]