Bring it on: Cal women’s water polo set to host Cal Cup

Karen Chow/Senior Staff

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On the heels of an underwhelming 2-2 performance at the Gaucho Invite, Cal women’s water polo is looking to have more success in this weekend’s home stand as hosts of the Cal Cup.

The tournament pits No. 6 Cal against teams that are all ranked among the nation’s top 20: No. 3 UC Irvine, No. 12 UC Davis and No. 18 San Jose State.

After falling at the hands of the Anteaters in Santa Barbara last weekend, the Bears won’t have to wait long for the opportunity to exact revenge; Cal and UCI face off in the opening game of the Cal Cup.

Last time the two squads matched up, the Anteaters were fairly dominant in their 12-7 victory. The Bears had chances to cut into the lead, and while they converted on two of their three penalty shots, they scored on just one out of 10 power plays.

Junior attacker Brigit Mulder earned a hat trick for Cal, with two of her goals coming off of five-meter penalty shots. Sophomore attacker Carla Traplin added two more scores, and was accountable for the Bears’ lone power play goal.

After a tightly contested opening period, UCI pulled away for good in the next quarter. The Anteaters played stifling defense as they outscored the Bears 4-1 in the second frame. Cal didn’t score its only goal of that quarter until just over a minute remained.

Needless to say, the Bears will be eager for Saturday’s rematch with the Anteaters.

While Cal hasn’t yet played UC Davis this season, the two teams did clash in 2019. Last year, it was the Bears who came out on top in relatively commanding fashion by a final score of 11-6.

Cal jumped ahead 6-1 and never relented down the stretch. Then-junior attacker Emma Wright was in top form, finding the back of the cage five times and accumulating three steals. Wright, however, will not play this time around because of her commitment to the Canadian national team, which is preparing for the Olympics.

With that being said, the blue and gold are still expected to prevail against the Aggies in this season’s matchup.

The Bears’ final game of the tournament will see them facing the Spartans. Cal and SJSU have already met once this year, in both teams’ season opener.

In that first meeting, the Bears fell behind in the early goings — this has become something of a trend. Prospects of starting the season out with a win looked grim when Cal trailed 3-0 and 4-1, but things quickly turned around for the blue and gold.

The Bears scored 10 unanswered goals between the start of the second quarter and about halfway through the final frame.

Junior utility Claire Sonne had a game-high four goals, while junior goalkeeper Cassidy Ball collected 12 saves and added a goal herself. It may have taken a minute (or eight) for Cal to find its rhythm, but by the final buzzer the Bears had secured the result they sought.

Cal will certainly be looking to get off to better starts in the Cal Cup than they have in their five games to this point. The Bears were the first team to score in just one of those contests, and have never led at the end of the opening quarter. With that being said, Cal has still managed a 3-2 record thus far.

This is impressive — not only considering the slow starts the Bears have gotten off to, but also the level of competition they’ve faced. All of Cal’s wins have come against ranked opponents, the most notable being a victory over No. 7 Michigan.

The Bears will exclusively be facing ranked opponents at this weekend’s Cal Cup, but that’s par for the course.

If the Bears get off to better starts in the Cal Cup, there’s a solid chance they will go 3-0 in the tournament. And if not, they’ll still have a decent chance given the comebacks they’ve managed to this point.

Ethan Moutes covers women’s water polo. Contact him at [email protected].