The No. 2 Cal women’s water polo team missed a golden opportunity to stake their claim as the best team in the country this weekend at the Stanford Invitational, falling short in their comeback attempt in the tournament’s final to No. 1 Stanford, 11-9.
Earlier, in a 18-3 dismantling of No. 17 San Jose State, Cal senior and All-American Dóra Antal broke the all-time Cal scoring record with her 217th goal. She finished the weekend with six goals, increasing her career total to 222.
Before being narrowly defeated by Stanford in the final, Cal pulled away in tight games from No. 9 Michigan, 11-10, and No. 11 UC Davis, 14-9.
For Cal, the loss to Stanford continues a five-game losing streak that dates all the way back to 2016, before current head coach Coralie Simmons was hired. The Bears’ first loss on the season now has them at 9-1.
This current group of Bears has been one of its strongest, coming into this weekend’s matches as Cal’s highest-rated team by the Collegiate Water Polo Association since February of 2012.
These wins are definitely impressive and validate the Bears’ strength, but a victory over the Cardinal would have cemented their elite standing. Cal will have another chance March 4 at Stanford and could potentially see Stanford again in the MPSF/NCAA tournaments at the end of the season.
Although the championship did not go Cal’s way, they took care of business against UC Davis and Michigan, as great teams should expect to do.
Cal got some strong first-quarter play against UC Davis from Antal and freshman Kitty Lynn Joustra, each scoring twice. Juniors Carla Carrega and Sarah Siepker both added two goals later in the game to ensure the 14-9 win.
Against Michigan, Cal pushed through one of their first real scares, but the Bears escaped with an 11-10 victory. Carrega scored a remarkable five goals in the second half of a tight game to keep the Bears afloat. All-American Honorable Mention sophomore Emma Wright also added two goals in the win.
Joustra had a breakout game against Michigan, scoring four times. She also was called upon by Simmons in the Stanford game, scoring a goal in the first quarter.
Against San Jose State, a total of 10 Bears found the back of the cage. Sophomores Hannah DeRose and Jackie Sanders both scored twice against the Spartans.
Freshman goalie Cassidy Ball saw some significant time in the water this weekend, starting and completing both the UC Davis and Stanford games. In the tournament’s four games, Carrega led the Bears’ offensive attack with an explosive 11 goals, while Joustra impressed with nine goals.
Cal will undoubtedly look back on this Stanford loss with disappointment. The Bears, however, remain a strong team capable of playing No. 1 ball and will have some extra motivation come their next battle with their rival.
Dev Navani covers women’s water polo. Contact him at [email protected].