From the first second that Thursday’s game began, the No. 2 Cal men’s water polo team (14-1) was unstoppable, beating its opponents, No. 6 Long Beach State (9-4),17-7.
Sophomore attacker Johnny Hooper won the sprint to open the match and swiftly made his way down the pool, scoring the first goal of the game just 20 seconds in. The 49ers were barely able to secure possession of the ball before a forced turnover by the Bears resulted in a second goal by Hooper with seven minutes left in the first quarter.
A third goal was soon scored by sophomore attacker Vassilis Tzavaras from the five-spot during a 6-on-5 with five minutes and 11 seconds remaining. Despite a subsequent missed shot attempt by Hooper, Cal was able to put yet another point on the board with just over three minutes left when Hooper passed to senior defender Thomas Carroll for a quick strike.
By the end of the first quarter, the Bears found themselves up 6-0 after two additional goals — one by freshman attacker Safak Simsek on an assist by junior attacker Luca Cupido and the last one by junior attacker Connor Reid.
In the second quarter, Cal replicated the quick first goal from the first period with a shot by sophomore utility Odysseas Masmanidis. Just 30 seconds later, Hooper registered his third goal of the game on a penalty shot.
For a moment, it seemed like Long Beach might make its first goal, but Cal senior goalie Lazar Andric tipped the ball out, keeping the 49ers off the scoreboard. Goals by Cupido and junior defender Nicholas Carniglia, as well as a buzzer beater from Simsek, sent the Bears into halftime up 11-0.
“That first half was about as good as we’ve played,” said Cal head coach Kirk Everist. “Everybody was involved, and we had a lot of people doing a lot of things.”
When play restarted after the break, Cal continued to demonstrate its offensive domination. Despite two goals by Austin Stevenson and Nolan McConnell for the 49ers, the Bears ended the third quarter with a larger lead than they had when the second half began, up 14-2.
In the fourth quarter, Long Beach was able to score five more times, while Cal only did twice. This disparity, however, signifies very little.
“We played a lot of guys,” Everist said. “The back of our bench the last 11 or 12 minutes of that game, for the most part, they did a really good job.”
Thursday’s game is the Bears’ last one for more than two weeks, providing them with a significant amount of time to perfect their game before the rest of the season and their Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, or MPSF, games begin.
“We’ve been working on our 6-on-5 because we know we are going to need it,” Everist said. “And it was a little bit better tonight, but we were on, so we are going to have to keep working on that and focusing on that.”
Sarah Goldzweig covers men’s water polo. Contact her at [email protected]