The No 4. Cal women’s water polo began the season in a most impressive fashion, winning all their games against a trio of top-25 opponents at the Rainbow Invite in Honolulu. An All-American Honorable Mention selection last year, sophomore Emma Wright quickly picked up where she left off, scoring a hat trick in the three wins.
In their first test against No. 6 Hawaii, the Bears were able to create some breathing room at the half with a 4-2 lead after a goal by Wright in the last second of the quarter on a powerplay. Three minutes into the third quarter, Cal was up 6-2 after goals from seniors Carla Carrega and Dora Antal, and the team did not relinquish control of the game afterward, winning 9-4.
The second match Saturday, a 17-2 win over No. 24 Marist, was a much less dramatic affair. The Bears jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the early second quarter and never looked back, with 10 players finding the goal in a brilliant offensive display. Many freshmen got in on the action as well, with Georgia Bogle and Claire Sonne scoring two goals apiece in their collegiate debuts.
The weekend concluded Sunday with a 12-2 win against No 23. Loyola Marymount, in which the Bears shut out the Lions in the second half. Playing a balanced game with crafty defense and careful offense, Cal had 11 steals to Loyola Marymount’s one.
Goalies junior Madison Tagg and senior Lolo Silver dazzled in the water this weekend, combining for nine saves. Tagg played the whole game against Hawaii, while Silver got the assignment later on against Marist. Freshman goalie Cassidy Ball also made her first career appearance this weekend against Marist.
Tagg and Silver split time against Loyola Marymount, as Silver replaced Tagg late in the second quarter. Despite their dominant play, the real test will come against Cal’s rivals, who are stronger on offense and will create more shot attempts then these opponents.
This weekend’s matches saw a number of freshman enter their first collegiate games. Elli Protopapas from Greece scored her first career goal against Hawaii late in the third quarter, while Georgia Gilmore found the goal twice on four attempts against Marist.
All-American seniors Antal and Anna Illés were key in victory this weekend, starting all three games alongside Wright, Carrega, senior Kindred Paul and redshirt junior Kacey Avalos. Antal scored four times this weekend on her way to becoming the third player in Cal history to clear the 200-goal milestone.
Illés was heavily involved in the Hawaii match, scoring three times on seven shot attempts. She only shot twice more for the rest of the weekend. Carrega had a very efficient weekend, scoring on all six of her attempts.
The Bears will return home to host next weekend’s Cal Cup at Spieker Aquatics Complex. They have matches against No 11. UC Davis, No. 7 UC Irvine and No. 25 Fresno State.
Dev Navani covers women’s water polo. Contact him at [email protected].