As the famous Cal men’s water polo adage goes, “there’s no place like Spieker.” The Bears have been on the road in nine of their 10 games thus far, so the upcoming MPSF Invitational in Berkeley should be a welcome sight for the squad.
Albeit a homestand, the upcoming tournament won’t necessarily be a breeze for the blue and gold. To open the weekend slate, Cal will face off against Pomona-Pitzer. While the Sagehens are no national powerhouse, they are certainly nothing for the Bears to scoff at.
“They’re a really well-coached team. Alex Rodriguez was an assistant coach on the Olympic team, so they’ll be really well prepared,” said Cal head coach Kirk Everist. “They play really hard, a little bit more movement-oriented, maybe more than some of the teams that we’ve seen, so we’re going to have to deal with drive defense, which gave us some problems last weekend.”
This weekend will certainly pose its own challenges for the blue and gold: It will be the first tournament of the season in which the Bears won’t know their opponent until the lead-up to the opening sprint.
“It’s a scouting challenge because if you win you do this, if you lose you go this way, so you kind of just have to prepare for everybody a little bit,” Everist said. “You just have to forecast out and prepare for everybody and then quickly adjust to the reality of the situation of who you’re going to play.”
The blue and gold may have a perfect record, but this does not make them a perfect team. Of last weekend’s four matchups, three were decided by 3 or fewer points, and the Bears often found themselves climbing uphill from being down late. While the team pulled out a victory in each of these matches, it would be reckless for Cal not to brush up or improve upon certain tactics for the upcoming weekend.
“The level of the tournaments is starting to build. We are going to get into our conference schedule shortly, and we’ve already started our interconference schedule,” Everist said. “We’ve had the opportunity to play close games, and that’s good for development and having to make plays in critical moments. … That helps the team overall to manage stress.”
Regardless of the sport, simplifying the game can do wonders for a team. This is clearly easier said than done, but it is critical that the Bears keep their fundamentals close to the vest if they want to continue their success.
“How to manage timeouts, how to slow the game down when you’re tired, but it’s (also) critical on how to speed up,” Everist said. “All those things, like how to execute certain plays and sets that we would like to do to put us in positions to be successful and having different people step up at different times.”
With all that being said, Cal will hope Spieker Aquatics Complex spells trouble for its visitors.
Justin Kim covers men’s basketball and men’s water polo. Contact him at [email protected].