No. 3 Cal women’s water polo upsets defending champion Stanford in triple-overtime thriller

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Unexpected help always seems to come at the most opportune times.

Freshman Kitty Lynn Joustra’s four goals, one of which being the game winner in triple overtime, were a revelation for Cal women’s water polo this weekend in Palo Alto. Her stellar play helped her win MPSF Newcomer of the Week — her second on the season.

No. 3 Cal (13-3, 1-0) handed No. 1 Stanford (11-1, 0-1) its first loss on the season in what may turn out to be a season-defining moment for the Bears. After disappointing defeats in last week’s Barbara Kalbus Invitational to then-No. 3 USC and No. 4 UCLA, Cal quickly rebounded in most impressive fashion with an 8-7 triple-overtime win at the Big Splash.

Not only did Joustra rattle in the final goal, she also found the net on a remarkable backhand shot with 30 seconds left to send the game into overtime.

“I’m a center. That’s my job – offense,” said Joustra in a press release. “But it doesn’t matter who scores the goals. It’s a team effort.”

And a team effort it was. Junior goalie Madison Tagg had arguably her best game of the year with a career-high 16 saves. She was rewarded with her MPSF Player of the Week — the first of her career.

Senior All-American Anna Illes had two goals, including a timely lob shot in the second overtime, while both senior Carla Carrega and sophomore Emma Wright added one of their own.

The scrappy Bears had to claw their way from behind the whole match; they did not once lead the Cardinal until the final, game-winning goal.

“My confidence in this team is endless, and it started on day one when I stepped on campus and saw their faces and how excited they were about the possibilities of building a new legacy,” said Cal coach Coralie Simmons in a press release.

Joustra has made her case to be a featured part of that new legacy. Quickly, a foundation for the Bears is forming. Joustra, Wright and freshman Elli Protopapas have been the young trio Simmons has relied on to complement her senior stars.

Wright garnered an All-American Honorable Mention last year and has not slowed down, with 29 goals so far. Protopapas took home MPSF Newcomer of the Week earlier this year and has been a key contributor to Cal’s offense.

Now, with all the MPSF teams gearing up for conference play, Cal will have ample opportunity to prove that they are the real deal. The Bears will now head into a rematch with the Bruins next weekend in Berkeley with all the confidence in the world.

Cal also has dates with No. 6 Arizona State and No. 2 USC further out on the horizon. While the defeat of the reigning champions has the Bears’ spirit as high as it’s been this year, there is still plenty of work to be done to achieve their championship aspirations.

Dev Navani covers women’s water polo. Contact him at [email protected].