In their second consecutive tournament weekend, No. 6 the Bears again found mixed results. The blue and gold looked strong Saturday, but an upset loss Sunday derailed what could have been an undefeated homestand.
On Saturday, The Bears’ first of two matchups pitted them against the Anteaters of No. 3 UC Irvine, who they lost to seven days prior at the Gaucho Invite in Santa Barbara.
In the aftermath of that first meeting, UC Irvine leapfrogged Cal in the national rankings and found itself in the third slot following the Gaucho Invite, while the Bears dropped to sixth.
Given their recent history, both teams were ready to fight tooth and nail Saturday morning.
Cal was clearly excited for the rematch. The Bears earned six goals in the first quarter, the most they’ve scored in any period to this point in the season. It also marked the first time this year that the Bears held a lead going into the second quarter.
Junior attacker Brigit Mulder, who ended up with four goals on the game, found the back of the cage twice in the opening eight minutes.
While Cal held a 6-4 advantage at the outset of the second quarter, the game was still far from won.
UCI senior Tara Prentice posed a constant threat, earning two of her game-high five goals in the second period. Prentice also scored rather efficiently, taking just eight shots.
The Bears extended their lead to three in the early goings of the second quarter, but the Anteaters quickly responded and knotted the game at eight.
Mulder scored what turned out to be the decisive goal with 7:33 left to play. With that, the Bears took a 12-10 lead. UCI scored once more before the final buzzer sounded, but ultimately Cal successfully exacted revenge on an in-state rival.
The blue and gold fared even better in their second game, a meeting with No. 12 UC Davis.
The Aggies led for much of the early going, and at the end of the first half the two squads were squared at five goals apiece.
Enter junior Claire Sonne and senior Kristina Garcia. The duo earned two goals apiece in the end of the second and beginning of the third frame, helping Cal jump out to a commanding 10-5 lead that it never relinquished.
After a close win and a blowout victory in their first two games of the tournament, the Bears seemed to be on the right trajectory entering their third and final match.
Cal was set to square off with No. 18 SJSU, a team it had already faced and dominated — albeit after a slow start — in the season opener, winning by a six-goal margin.
But there was an upset in the cards.
It wasn’t the result of a lack of effort, but rather a lack of execution. Several early Bears’ shots hit the post, and the goals didn’t get easier to come by. Cal ended up with just eight goals on 29 shots.
Although the Bears took more shots, had fewer penalties and earned more power play goals than their opponent, the Spartans defeated the blue and gold for just the second time in their program’s history.
Their struggles can be partially attributed to the fact that freshman starters Sophie Leggett and Cecily Turner were unable to play, but given the other teams Cal managed to beat this weekend they certainly could have topped SJSU.
The Bears look to bounce back at the Stanford Invitational on Feb. 1-2.
Ethan Moutes covers women’s water polo. Contact him at [email protected].