In its final home game of the year, the No. 5 Stanford men’s water polo team held its Senior Day against visiting cross-bay rival Cal, but it was a Bears senior, Colin Mulcahy, who ended up celebrating after captaining his team to a huge 13-8 win in the “Big Splash.” In his final rivalry game of his collegiate career, Mulcahy led the Bears — tied for second nationally — with five goals, and sophomore Luca Cupido added an additional four.
The Bears came out firing on all cylinders, with Cupido drawing first blood within 15 seconds and Mulcahy converting a counterattack on the next possession to put the Bears up, 2-0. When Cupido broke away for another counterattack a few minutes later, he was fouled, but freshman attacker Johnny Hooper missed the ensuing penalty shot.
The tides then shifted in favor of the Cardinal, which tied up the game behind goals from junior utility player Jackson Kimbell and star senior Bret Bonanni. Stanford was not able to take the lead, however, and Cal finished the first frame up, 3-2, after a goal by freshman Odysseas Masmanidis off a beautiful pass by Mulcahy over the defense and into inside water.
Stanford took its first lead of the game in the second quarter at 4-3, but the Bears tied the game again behind a Timothy Simenc goal on a six-on-five opportunity. The biggest highlights of the second frame, however, came from both defenses, especially Stanford junior goalkeeper Drew Holland, and the score remained at 5-4 for two minutes and 45 seconds. Bonanni scored his second goal of the game to put the Cardinal up, 6-5, but Cupido retaliated immediately to tie the game at halftime.
Stanford took a two-goal lead just after two minutes of the third quarter, and Cal head coach Kirk Everist called a timeout to get his team to start pressing defensively.
“We had some good opportunities and made some good plays on the defensive end, but we were lackadaisical with the ball on the offensive side, and it was causing us to miss some good opportunities,” Everist said. “I felt like the guys needed to refocus and go out and get a good possession, which resulted in a goal.”
After the timeout, the Bears regained their composure and leveled the score again with Cupido’s third goal and a breakaway goal by Hooper. The Bears took a 9-8 lead into the fourth quarter and then proceeded to shut the Cardinal out of the frame, running away behind two goals from Mulcahy and one apiece from Cupido and Hooper. Mulcahy and Cupido also led the team defensively, preventing the Cardinal to get any goals from 2 meters and holding Bonanni scoreless throughout the second half.
“I think that was definitely the best game I’ve ever seen (Cupido) play for us,” Everist said. “He was doing a little bit of everything.”
The Bears ended the game with seven unanswered goals and cruised for the last three minutes, holding the ball and running the clock out en route to bringing the Steve Heaston trophy back to Berkeley.
“It was a big game on a number of levels. Obviously, you don’t need to add anything to the ‘Big Splash’ — a lot of tradition, a lot of history and a lot of great players, and today was no different,” Everist said. “It’s a special game to be a part of and, of course, great to get a win.”
Vikram Muller covers men’s water polo. Contact him at [email protected].