Cal women’s water polo runs through Long Beach State and Santa Clara for two easy wins

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When Long Beach State and Santa Clara got off the bus and entered Spieker Aquatics Complex, they knew they were going to square off against Cal women’s water polo — a team that has only been defeated once this season. On Saturday, the Bears took care of business and sent both Long Beach State and Santa Clara back victims of a relentless and punishing Cal attack.

The Bears did what they expected to do: blow out the competition. Scoring early and often in both games Saturday, Cal (11-1) made sure neither matches were ever close, defeating Long Beach State 15-7 and Santa Clara 17-6.

“We did what we had to do,” said freshman Dora Antal.

Although the final score against Long Beach State (5-5) would indicate the Bears had no problems against the 49ers, the opening moments of the game did not reflect a one-sided game.

 Long Beach State goalie Kelly Ringel took the early spotlight. Recording three of her eight blocks in the first four minutes of the game, Ringel shut down Cal’s offense and gave Long Beach State many opportunities to jump out to a quick start as Long Beach State led 1-0 for more than four minutes.

But at the 3:42 mark in the first quarter, all that would change when freshman Roser Tarrago, who made her home debut, fired a shot that went through the hands of the Long Beach State defense and into the net. Less than a minute later, Tarrago caught a pass from teammate Anna Illes to punch another goal home. In a span of only a couple minutes, Tarrago gave Cal the lead — one the team would not look back from.

“She (Tarrago) played very well,” Antal said. “I really like to play with her because we are almost the same player. Especially since we’re the same size.”

Dealing with eligibility issues at the start of the season, Tarrago, a Spanish Olympian who won a silver medal in London, had to sit out the first month and wait for the Stanford Invitational Tournament at the beginning of February to make her first appearance. But with six goals against Long Beach State and seven total in the day, it’s clear Tarrago is providing Cal with an offensive spark.

“The first tournament was a little scary, because I didn’t want to play bad and make the team play worse,” Tarrago said. “But now I’m getting used to it and I’m playing with them every time. And I love it.”

The Bears wouldn’t stop with Long Beach State. Shortly after the relatively easy victory, Cal carried the intensity level from the first match of the day into the match that followed.

Holding Santa Clara (3-7) scoreless in the entire second half, the Bears seized control right from the opening sprint. Constantly forcing Broncos turnovers and feeding off the transition game, Cal immediately took Santa Clara out of its game.

Winning 9-0 at the half and leading by 12 goals at one point, the visiting team was never quite able to get anything going until the game was already out of reach. Playing in front of their home crowd, the Bears made sure their fans would see a dominating, explosive and enjoyable performance.

“We had so much fun,” Tarrago said. “Especially today, playing at home. The environment here is better, and it was just awesome.”

Richard Lee covers women’s water polo. Contact him at Contact him at [email protected].