The Kap7 SoCal Invitational brought a similar story for the Cal men’s water polo team to the one that unfolded earlier this season at the NorCal tournament — but with slightly more favorable results. The Bears wrapped up this past weekend’s bunch of bouts with a third-place win, proving that they can, indeed, compete with other nationally top-ranked teams.
No. 4 Cal started off the tournament Saturday with a strong win, 17-7, against Loyola Marymount University. Taking 53 shots to LMU’s 26, the Bears were an offensive force to be reckoned with. The biggest contributions came from Odysseas Masmanidis and Colin Mulcahy, each with four goals, and Luca Cupido and Johnny Hooper with three apiece. Goalie Peter O’Laughlin began his tournament with a formidable goalkeeping performance, making four saves to shut out the Lions in the fourth quarter.
Maybe it was a series of lapses on the part of the Bears or brute determination from the Tigers, but Cal’s second game against Pacific proved to be more challenging than expected. At the beginning of the fourth period, the Bears had a three-goal lead, 7-4, which they quickly expanded to a five-goal lead after a minute of play. Quickly, though, the tables turned as Pacific went on an unmatched five-goal streak to tie up the game.
Forcing the match into overtime, both teams found themselves once again in a stalemate at 10-10 after the first three minutes of extra play. It took a heroic goal from Hooper with 13 seconds to play in the second overtime.
“It was a good exercise for our kids to go from up five to down one and kind of hold it together and execute a set play at the end of the second overtime to win the game,” Everist said.
Advancing to the tournament semifinals Sunday, Cal faced an undefeated UCLA team. After the first quarter, the Bears were only a goal behind the Bruins but were unable to keep pace, as UCLA scored five goals in both the second and third quarters. Cal’s offense was unable to close the gap because of continuous trouble finding good shots and getting the ball into its centers. Although keeper Lazar Andric made 17 saves, his efforts were not enough to stave off a powerful Bruins offense, and the Bears fell, 13-8, to the No. 1 team in the country, which ultimately won the tournament with a 10-9 win over USC.
Not wanting to go home with another fourth-place tournament finish, Cal went into its third-place match against Stanford with renewed energy.
“It was really important to let the UCLA game go and come back and focus in,” Everist said. “We focused in on the fact that it was a really important game that down the line could mean a lot to our season.”
The Bears scored a quick five goals in the first period, giving them a buffer zone that would allow them to stay ahead despite a third-quarter goal surge from the Cardinal. The victory proved that Cal is a vastly multitalented team, as nine players augmented the 14-11 win with goal contributions, while Andric once again protected the net with seven saves. The win brings Cal its first victory over a higher-ranked team this season.
“At the end of the day, it was a good learning experience and a situation that we’ll look back on and will help us later on,” Everist said.
Sophie Goethals covers men’s water polo. Contact her at [email protected]