Bears thump Tigers, squash Spartans: Cal remains undefeated

Photo of a Cal men's water polo game
Madeleine Fruman/Staff

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The Tigers left no trace, and the Spartans couldn’t scuff the Bears. This is the story of how Cal emerged victorious in both weekend outings with a perfect 6-0 record on the season.

The Bears kicked off their weekend in Stockton, teeing off against the UOP Tigers. Cal handily beat UOP 13-6, led by senior Jack Deely on the offensive end and junior Adrian Weinberg on defense. Deely showed an astonishing six-goal effort while Weinberg held down the cage with 13 saves. Deely and Weinberg were the standout players in a concerted team effort.

While the 13-6 end result of this game suggested it was a fairy tale for Cal, make no mistake: The Bears were still up against some formidable opponents.

“UOP definitely has a unique defensive strategy, which takes away one of our biggest threats, if not biggest, which is our center, so it was a unique experience going up against a full drop. You don’t really see that too often,” said senior attacker Miles O’Brien-Schridde.

Following their UOP win, the Bears came back home to fans in the stands for the first time in nearly two years. Both fans and players of any sport would likely agree that the lack of spectators during games was the biggest adjustment in the sports world throughout the pandemic.

“Surreal. It was awesome,”  O’Brien-Schridde said of playing in front of a crowd. “We obviously play to play the game and compete against the opponents, but it’s a huge plus to have friends, family (and) loved ones in the stands cheering you on. … (It was) everything I remembered it being and more.”

Regardless of which side they are cheering for, fans can now share physical spaces with the athletes and watch the story of a game unfold in real time. While final scores are binary, what actually happens during a game can be much more nuanced. Similar to the UOP final score, the final score against San Jose State suggests Cal did not run into much trouble, but this was not the case.

Cal only had a one-point lead at the half and would’ve been tied had it not been for a timely goal by O’Brien-Schridde with less than a minute left on the clock.

Unfortunately for the Spartans, this was the closest they’d come to victory, as Cal locked in and pulled away in the second half, winning the game 16-9. The Bears were led by O’Brien-Schridde and junior Nikolaos Papanikolaou on the offensive end, each scoring four goals. On the defensive end, Weinberg held down the fort once again with 10 saves.

Executing the right adjustments on the fly is what separates the good teams from the great ones. In that same vein, it’s important for teams to believe in the work they put in.

“We started to focus more on our … defensive tactics. When we started the game, that was what was lacking. We trusted ourselves and we trusted our teammates to control the momentum of the game, set the pace, set the tone and (we) went to work,” O’Brien-Schridde said.

As individually talented as Cal is, its teamwork in and out of the water is what makes them one of the strongest teams in the nation. O’Brien-Schridde was the standout offensive player of the game, but when asked about his performance, he mentioned his teammates before himself.

“I credit my teammates. They made incredible passes. They set everything up for me, and all I had to do was throw to the cage,” O’Brien-Schridde said.

The blue and gold will look to stay undefeated at the Aggie Open where they will rematch against San Jose State and the University of Pacific while also facing off against the UC Davis Aggies and California Baptist University Lancers.

Justin Kim covers men’s basketball and men’s water polo. Contact him at [email protected].