Coming off a two-week stretch without a game, the Cal men’s water polo team hopped into one of its busiest weekends of the season with the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, or MPSF, tournament at Stanford. After all was said and done, the Bears finished 2-2, facing tough losses at the end of the weekend against USC and UCLA.
To kick off the tournament Friday, the Cal defeated Loyola Marymount 17-7, with senior Johnny Hooper and junior Jordan Hoover tallying four goals each. Meanwhile, the Bears goalkeeping, split between juniors Bernardo Carelli and Spencer Tagg, totaled 13 saves over the course of the game.
The Bears came out with a strong start — up 9-2 heading into halftime — and continued their consistent offensive performance by outscoring the Lions 8-5 in the second half en route to a dominant win.
This dynamic offense also carried Cal to a 19-8 win over UCSB on Saturday. The Bears got off to another quick start with a 12-3 advantage in the first half, which all but sealed their win early in the game.
Cal approached the next two matchups with confidence but suffered defeats at the hands of the USC and UCLA. The Bears fell to the Trojans 6-13 and lost to the Bruins by a single goal, with a final score of 11-12.
USC’s strong defense shut the Bears down late in the game, allowing Cal just one goal in the fourth period. Head coach Kirk Everist outlined the lack of cohesion in the water from the Bears’ individual players as a reason why the offense could not get going.
“As a team, we learned a lot this weekend. We struggled Saturday and let SC get away from us. We tried to do too much individually when we got behind, and our mistakes led to more SC offense,” Everist said. “Resilience is a quality we need to continue to build.”
Cal’s matchup against UCLA was easily the most competitive game of the weekend. The back-and-forth action of the game saw the Bears trailing the Bruins 12-11, with just a little more than a minute left in the game. Despite any last ditch efforts, the Bears were not able to put in a tying goal before the end of regulation, solidifying their one-point loss.
Over the next three weeks, Cal will have its chance to rematch three of its four opponents from this weekend — UCSB, UCLA and USC. At this point in the season, the sheer frequency of games slows down, as the Bears will only have one match per week until the MPSF Championships in mid-November.
With the more relaxed schedule, Cal will be doing a lot of team development work over the next month and focusing in on each individual opponent — this next week being a rematch with UCSB.
“Obviously we have an uphill battle ahead of us, but our goal is one week at a time. Focus on a tough UCSB team and get better as a team,” Everist said. “We need to continue building our depth as we hit the stretch run.”
There will be plenty of pressure on team leaders, such as Hoover, Carelli and junior Chase Hamming, to provide morale to Cal’s energetic, younger members as they head into the final stretch of conference play.