As Napoleon Bonaparte once said, “history is written by the winners.” This season, the Cal men’s water polo team has certainly written history aplenty.
Junior goalkeeper Adrian Weinberg became the first MPSF player this season to record more than 20 saves in one game and the 14th goalie in MPSF history to record a 20-save game.
Sitting at the top of the leaderboard with 60 goals and 98 earned ejections, junior center Nikolaos Papanikolaou was awarded MPSF Player of the Year for the second year in a row.
Freshman attacker Roberto Valera was named MPSF Newcomer of the Year and was the first player in MPSF history to receive the Newcomer of the Week awards for five weeks. Cal was also the first ever team to sweep the MPSF weekly awards for five weeks in one season.
“We feel very ready for the MPSF Championships,” said senior utility and All-American Jack Deely. “Everyone’s super fit right now. Our identity is pretty solid, and we execute.”
Being ranked No. 1 means that Cal will have a bye in the first round of MPSF Championships. The team is scheduled to play the semifinal match at 9:30 a.m. PST on Saturday, November 20, and the start time of Sunday’s match will be dependent on the outcome of the semifinals.
Below is a brief breakdown of the teams that the blue and gold may have to face off this weekend.
No. 5/6 seed: Austin College, Penn State Behrend
The Austin College Kangaroos have had a mediocre season with an overall record of 6-8. They emerged triumphant in a match against the Penn State Behrend Lions a few weeks prior but have yet to score a victory in a faceoff with a Division I team. Meanwhile, the Lions have yet to win this season and are currently sporting a losing streak of 18. Whether they will be able to snag a win before their season is over will be up in the air in Palo Alto.
No. 4 seed: Stanford
As the hosts of the MPSF Championships, Stanford will have quite a bit of pressure to bring home the crown. However, it has yet to win against the top-three seeded teams of the tournament. Graduate student Tyler Abramson, the Cardinal’s top scorer and second in the conference for total goals scored, will be seeking glory at home. Sophomore goalkeeper Nolon Krutonog is ranked second in the MPSF for saves made this season and will be a key player for Stanford this weekend.
No. 3 seed: UCLA
After losing to USC 7-8 and to Cal 9-16, the UCLA Bruins will be aiming to redeem themselves. Currently sporting a record of 16-3 and a conference record of 1-2, the Bruins are very much in the running for the MPSF title. With nine players on the MPSF leaderboards, UCLA will need to be at its best to beat the best.
No. 2 seed: USC
As the only team in the conference to walk away with a victory against Cal, USC is possibly the biggest threat Cal has to face in Palo Alto this weekend. However, the Trojans and Bears are on opposite sides of the bracket, and whether they will have a third showdown this season is entirely dependent on the results of all of the teams. Senior goalkeeper Nic Porter is currently first in the conference with a save percentage of 0.584, so he will be one to watch out for.
Coming out of a regular season full of “firsts,” it’s no surprise that the Bears are heading into the MPSF Championships as the No. 1 seed. Although they are also currently the top ranked team in the nation, there are a number of worthy opponents waiting for them in Stanford. The blue and gold need to be as prepared as they will ever be if they want to walk away with victory.
Yuqing Qiu covers men’s water polo. Contact her at [email protected].