The battle of the bears commenced this past weekend as the Cal women’s water polo team traveled to UCLA for its second conference game.
The No. 5 Bears (12-4, 0-2 in the Pac-12) lost to No. 4 UCLA (17-3, 1-1) by a final score of 10-7. Cal has been defeated by all top-four teams in the MPSF at least once.
While the Bruins may have bested the Bears by three goals, the match was a close, goal-for-goal game until the fourth quarter.
The first quarter ended with a 1-1 score, and the second quarter saw the Bears take their first lead of the game with a goal from sophomore driver Tiera Schroeder. The game continued with back-and-forth play, as the first half ended with the Bruins leading, 5-4.
The third quarter continued to follow this trend, until UCLA scored twice in a row. Bruins’ sophomore attacker Emily Donohoe’s goal was quickly followed by freshman attacker Rachel Fattal.
Donohoe, the Bruins’ leading scorer, had a total of five goals throughout the game, the fatal dagger in the Bears’ chances for a win.
Cal senior Emily Csikos brought the Bears back within one with a last-second shot to end the third quarter as Cal trailed, 7-6. Csikos had one other goal in the game, launching her into sole possession of second place on the program’s all-time goal-scoring list with 201 goals.
The Bruins continued to pull ahead, with early goals in the fourth quarter by senior attacker Gisselle Naranjo and Donohoe to give UCLA its biggest lead of the game at 9-6. The Bears would score one more but were unable to keep up.
“They were just putting away some better shots,” said goalkeeper Savanna Smith. “I know I made some mistakes, and I couldn’t get to them all, but I think they just capitalized on some greater opportunities.”
For the past few weeks, the Bears have seemed to be able to keep up with the competition for only a part of the game. Last week’s loss to USC was close until the second half, and this past weekend’s UCLA game was close throughout the first three quarters.
“I don’t think it’s a trend,” Smith said. “If you take a bad goal or something that’s just backbreaking, it’s hard to bounce back.”
This loss will not affect the Bear’s in the standings, but it will not help them move from the No. 5 spot. Next weekend’s game against Arizona State will be more of a redemption game than a game that will help them bounce back up in the rankings because of their losses to the other top-four teams in the MPSF.
“If we beat (Arizona State), it’s more of a personal victory,” Smith said. “If we don’t start winning, it makes it that much harder and puts more pressure on us.”
Alicia Fong covers women’s water polo. Contact her at [email protected].