Saturday afternoon’s rematch between San Jose State and No. 6 Cal was eerily reminiscent of the teams’ first meeting at the Aggie Roundup in late September. Again, the Bears allowed a fourth-quarter rally — and again, the Spartans pushed the game into overtime with two goals scored in the last five minutes of regulation. It was Cal that came out on top, however.
In spite of the close 10-8 final score and the fact that the game needed overtime to be decided, it was hardly a back-and-forth affair. San Jose State never had a lead. With that said, the Spartans fought valiantly to repeatedly tie the game and send it into extra periods.
Cal senior Safak Simsek kicked off the game’s scoring, which was a good bit of foreshadowing for the type of performance he would turn in. By the time the final buzzer sounded, Simsek had a game-high four goals to his name — whereas no other player in the pool ended up with more than two. With those four scores, Simsek now has 36 goals and 47 points on the season, both of which are the most for any Bear.
“From an individual standpoint, I have big responsibilities toward the team because I am a senior and we have a young group. As in every game, I try to be a leader in the pool and still have plenty to improve on,” Simsek said.
Junior attacker Jasmin Kolasinac and freshman center Nikolaos Papanikolaou — Cal’s second and third-highest scorers, respectively — each found the back of the cage. But it was junior 2-meter Nikos Delagrammatikas who scored the decisive goal with a minute and a half remaining in the first overtime period.
Delagrammatikas has been an exceedingly consistent contributor for the Bears over the past three seasons. Last year, he received several accolades including a spot on the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation’s All-Academic Team and was selected as an honorable mention for the All-MPSF team for his outstanding athletic performances.
This time around, Cal did an effective job of slowing down SJSU senior Finn Pardon, who scored five times when the Bears and Spartans first clashed. This past Saturday, Cal’s defense held Pardon to just two shots — neither of which resulted in a point for SJSU.
The Bears also managed to contain SJSU sophomore Niels Hofmeijer. Hofmeijer scored five times in the Spartans’ most recent game against Air Force, but the Bears were able to hold him to just one goal and one steal.
Cal outshot SJSU by a considerable margin of 37-29, but the Bears’ 12 penalties proved costly down the stretch. The Spartans scored on four out of 12 power play opportunities. In other words, they scored half of their goals when Cal was shorthanded. While the Bears’ penalties did not ultimately cost them the game, they certainly made for a tightly-contested affair.
While the game was perhaps a little too close for comfort, the Bears did end up rolling out of San Jose with a win. Cal improved to 10-5 on the year, and 2-0 in its season series against SJSU, who proved to be a formidable opponent for the Bears.
Ethan Moutes covers men’s water polo. Contact him at [email protected].