Put out the welcome mat — the Bears are coming home.
The Cal women’s water polo team will play their first home game on March 3, starting league play by taking on No. 1 USC (12-0) at 1 p.m. at the Spieker Aquatics Complex.
The No. 5 Bears (12-2) take to the pool after a disappointing loss to Arizona State, which resulted in them being dropped from the No. 4 seed. However, Cal is confident that they can make up for the loss.
“Now that we’re finally getting into our first MPSF game, the season is really starting,” senior Emily Csikos said. “I understand that the games before do matter when trying to go for the championship, but I feel like these are the games that you really show what you’re made of.”
The Trojans remain the only undefeated team in the conference, led by USC’s top scorer, sophomore Monica Vavic, with 38 goals. While Vavic is the daughter of head coach Jovan Vavic, she certainly proves she is more than that.
Vavic was the first freshman to be named a First-Team All-American last season, and an MPSF All-Tournament Team pick. So far this season, Vavic has managed to score in every game the Trojans have played. She currently leads the MPSF with the most goals scored this season.
Although Vavic may be the Trojan’s top scorer, the Bears are determined to treat Vavic like any other player. Cal coach Richard Corso is not worried when it comes to Vavic.
“She’s another player, she scores goals, and we just have to defend her. There’s a lot of good players out there, a lot on each team, but I get more excited about our players,” Corso said.
Other players the Bears need to watch out for are junior two-meter Kaleigh Gilchrist and senior driver Dominique Sardo, who are tied with 16 goals as the Trojans second highest scorers.
However, the Bears have a myriad of players of their own who continue to be a consistent force on the offensive end.
While Csikos leads the team with 31 goals this season, another one of Cal’s drivers, sophomore Tiera Schroeder is close behind with 25 goals of her own. Junior Ashley Young rounds out the top three, with 18 goals going into league play.
Offense is not the only focal point of this team as they prepare for all aspects of the game.
“Any of these one-on-one MPSF league games are just important as the other, so it’s really crucial we have a set game plan and that we execute it as well as possible,” Young added.
While some may think it is intimidating to face the No. 1 seed to start league play, the Bears are ready and willing.
“We really want to start out the conference on a strong note and I think the best way to do that is against USC and at home,” Csikos said.
Cal’s ultimate goal is to make it to the NCAA championships, and beating the Trojans will greatly help in their quest to do so. A win against this team will surely move the Bears up from their current No. 5 position.
“That’s what its all about, getting to the national championships, and then once you get there anything can happen,” Corso said.
Alicia Fong covers women’s water polo. Contact her at [email protected]