Cal women’s water polo’s Senior Day ended with a tough loss to UCI. With the tight loss in extra periods marking their last appearance at home for the season, the now migratory Bears stand at No. 6, after being leapfrogged by the No. 5 Anteaters. Following the frustrating loss and an extended break between games, the blue and gold now set their sights on the regular-season finale against an old rival in No. 2 Stanford.
Though the Cardinal are ranked second in the country, there is reason to believe that the Bears can pull out a win to end the regular season. For starters, Cal is one of two teams to beat Stanford this season, winning a close 10-9 match in overtime Feb. 5.
“It’s a venue we really thrive in,” said Cal head coach Coralie Simmons on playing at Stanford. “We’re excited for a rematch and to see how we will respond two weeks out from the UCI loss.”
More recently, the Cardinal dropped their second game to No. 1 USC on April 2.
Though the Cardinal followed the loss with four straight dominating wins against the likes of Loyola Marymount and Indiana, this weekend’s matchup will be the first time in two weeks that Stanford plays a highly-ranked opponent.
The Bears, on the other hand, have had an empty schedule since their last game April 2, giving them a golden opportunity to practice and improve as a team.
Looking back on the Cal shortcomings during the UCI game, Simmons also had many points of emphasis for the team to build on in the two weeks leading up to Stanford.
“How do we respond on the offensive end?” Simmons said. “The defense has been steady all season but the offense is where we get our momentum.”
Right in line with Simmons’ analysis, the Bears’ offense has been a big question for most of the season. At times, scorers such as Kitty Lynn Joustra, Lily Turner and Ruby Swadling seem to have their way with opposing defenses. Yet, at other times, Cal’s offense falls prey to unforced errors and turnovers to become stagnant for long stretches of a game. Offensive woes turned out to be a deciding factor against UCI.
For Cal to sweep the Big Splash, its offense must put together a complete outing.
More heroics from goalie Isabel Williams will also be necessary to keep the vaunted Stanford attack at bay. The decorated junior has had a stellar season to this point, but this rivalry matchup marks the start of an end-of-season stretch that includes the MPSF tournament as well as the NCAA tournament. For the Bears to have success in the stiff competition of the postseason, Williams must continue to impose her will at the net.
Emma Wright, now the fifth all-time scorer for Cal, along with the rest of the Bears’ seniors, enter their final rivalry game against the Cardinal after a tumultuous college career that has featured success, stress, pandemic and perseverance. For them, this game is the intersection of a longstanding rivalry, MPSF seeding and of course, the beginning of the end of their college career. So, throw your game plans and stat sheets aside. Expect both teams, led by their senior cores, to be as unified and passionate as ever at Avery Aquatic Center on Saturday.
Catch Cal take on Stanford at noon this Saturday, April 16, at Avery Aquatic Center or on the Pac-12 Network.