Animosity filled the air around Spieker Aquatics Complex throughout this past Saturday’s rematch between two of water polo’s heavy weights, No. 6 Cal and No. 7 Pepperdine. The Bears came in salivating for another crucial win; the Waves, meanwhile, were eager to beat the Bears after a defeat at their hands during September’s SoCal Invitational. In a game of rallies, Pepperdine ultimately exacted the revenge it sought, winning 13-12.
From the start there was an abundance of action to behold, both in and outside of the pool. The Waves put the first point on the board with a close range floater over the head of Cal’s freshman goalie Adrian Weinberg less than a minute into the contest. An excitable Bears fan immediately jumped to his feet and demanded the referees wave off the goal in light of what he perceived to be an obvious foul.
But, alas, this heckler found no success. The goal stood, and Pepperdine quickly got off to a 3-1 lead. Seconds later, a bullet of a shot from Cal freshman attacker Garrett Dunn started the Bears on a rally of their own, and brought the score to 3-2. This incited a Pepperdine fan to take his turn berating the officials. By the end of a high-octane first quarter in both the pool and the stands, the teams found themselves tied at four goals apiece.
Nearly three minutes into the second quarter, freshman center Nikolaos Papanikolaou delivered a crafty backhanded bomb to the back of the net. It was the third of four unanswered goals scored by the Bears between the end of the first quarter and the early goings of the second, and Cal took a commanding 7-4 lead.
The Waves looked to take back the reins with a near-immediate shot on Cal’s Weinberg, but Weinberg deflected Pepperdine’s attempt. To send a little extra message, the young keeper briefly wagged his index finger à la NBA legend Dikembe Mutombo. It was just one of Weinberg’s 14 saves in what was a very solid performance.
But another Pepperdine rally was soon to begin. The Waves earned three unanswered points in the third period of play to grasp a brief 9-8 lead, only for the Bears to launch an offensive assault in the following minutes. Cal looked determined to win after three straight scores of its own, including another goal from Dunn and two goals from freshman utility Marko Valecic. Dunn and Valecic finished with three goals, two assists — and two goals, three assists respectively.
Toward the game’s conclusion, although the Waves assumed control. They erased Cal’s 11-9 lead and held the Bears scoreless for the final six minutes of regulation. Prolific Pepperdine scorer Balazs Kosa netted his third and final goal with 5:42 minutes left to play in the fourth quarter, and with just under four minutes to go it was redshirt senior defender Sean Thomas who evened the score at 12.
Pepperdine played exceptional defense in the last portion of the game. Cal was unable to get off a shot in its last possession of regulation, sending the game into overtime. The Waves’ freshman attacker Curtis Jarvis scored what turned out to be the decisive goal with just five seconds remaining in the first overtime period. As the game came to a close, the Bears were again unable to get off a shot in their final possession.
When the water settled after Pepperdine and Cal’s physical, back-and-forth rematch, it was the Waves who came out on top by a final score of 13-12. After several rallies earlier in the game, the Bears couldn’t quite manage one in the games closing minutes. As a consequence, Cal will likely find itself leapfrogged by Pepperdine in this week’s updated rankings. Granted, it was a close loss, but that makes this pill all the more difficult to swallow.
Ethan Moutes covers men’s water polo. Contact him at [email protected].