After a quick turnaround from last weekend’s matches, the No. 4 Bears managed to gut out a perfect 4-0 record at the Aggie Shootout.
The weekend started off with a dominant win against No. 19 California Baptist, in which the Bears pummeled the Lancers 16-8. As per usual, junior center Nikolaos Papanikolaou came to perform, tallying a career-high seven goals.
While schemes and strategies are critical to winning, sometimes a victory can just come down to hard work and a good mindset.
“The game plan we had, and our team’s mentality and our team’s willingness to go hard on defense allowed us to keep them to single digits. I think that’s really all it was,” said junior goalkeeper Adrian Weinberg.
Next on the schedule was No. 8 Davis. The Aggies were arguably the Bears’ biggest hurdle this weekend, as Cal was down late in the third quarter –– a rare sight for such a talented squad.
Regardless of the sport, a slight shift in momentum can often be the difference-maker in a win versus a loss. In an uphill battle, the Bears locked in and went on a 5-0 scoring run, holding the Aggies scoreless for eight minutes.
Senior Miles O’Brien-Schridde, Papanikolaou and freshman Max Casabella delivered on the offensive end with a hat trick each. But Cal’s standout performer of the game was none other than Weinberg, who had a weekend-high 15 saves.
“I was only able to get those saves because of my team’s ability to make it easy for me to make those blocks. I have to just give credit to my team for helping me with that,” Weinberg said.
The Bears’ next two games were rematches against San Jose State and the University of the Pacific. Cal beat both of these teams by a combined 14 points last weekend but would have a much slimmer margin of victory this time around after narrowly squeezing by with two 2-point victories.
There are many variables that could change the dynamic of a matchup from week to week, and effort is certainly one of them.
“I don’t know if (San Jose State) really changed anything,” Weinberg said. “I think we as a team got really lackadaisical on defense. We weren’t closing out on hits, which allowed shooters to have time and have basically the whole cage open.”
The game against the Spartans also came with some added pressure: The Bears were not only vying to keep their undefeated season alive, but they also had the chance to secure Coach Kirk Everist’s 400th career win. Fortunately, Cal got the job done, and Everist wasn’t the only one leaving the matchup with good feelings.
“As soon as he won … we were throwing ice water on him. It was really cool, really happy for him,” Weinberg said. “The team was super excited about it, and I hope it’s something that we can build off of as we continue through the season.”
The final match of the weekend came against the Tigers where effort, once again, was a determining factor.
“With UOP, you can just tell they really wanted it. The way they were driving was with intent, purpose, and we were trying our best to defend it,” Weinberg said.
Papanikolaou and O’Brien-Schridde had more up their sleeves, each piling on another hat trick for the weekend. Weinberg held down the cage on the defensive end once again, putting on a clinic with 10 total saves.
For this upcoming weekend, the blue and gold will look to defend their home stadium of Spieker Aquatics Complex at the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Invitational in Berkeley.
Justin Kim covers men’s basketball and men’s water polo. Contact him at [email protected].