For the first time this season, the Bears walked away with an 18-12 victory away at Stanford. This rematch solidified the standing that Cal has in the MPSF tournament and inches them closer to back-to-back NCAA championships.
Stanford, ranking No. 4 in the division, leaves Saturday’s match with an overall record of 20-4 heads into the MPSF tournament this Friday with a 0-3 mark.
Earlier this season, Cal played Stanford away and was defeated 12-11. At this point in the season, the Bears were still trying to find a team identity and solidify their defensive efforts. This rematch was their chance to demonstrate their improvement and that’s exactly what they did.
Rivalry games always come with energized fans, excitement and a different type of competitiveness. The game began with some back and forth, but by the end of the half the Bears were charging ahead with a 10-4 lead that was creating a good distance between the two teams.
“We were obviously able to score a lot of goals and get on top of them early in the second quarter and get some distance in between the two teams,” head coach Kirk Everist said. “I thought we played really well. Let some goals in in the third quarter but overall, it was a good performance by the guys.”
Cal is known for their offensive powerhouses, and fans could see the energy of the game in the scoring margin. By the end of the game, Adrian Weinberg totaled six saves, Nikolaos Papanikolaou scored four goals, Max Casabella and Jack Deely scored three, Roberto Valera, Jack Howerton, and Nik Mirkovic scored two, and Garrett Dunn and Albert Ponferrada each tallied one.
The Bears shut down Stanford’s offensive efforts and made it difficult for them to come back from behind. Cal has been working on their defense all season — whether it was closing off shooters, blocking shots, or really having focus.
“Since the beginning of the season we had that problem; we were not focused enough on defense and mostly relied on our offense,” senior Nikolaos Papanikolaou said. “It’s not about tactics, it is about focus and determination. We all sat down and said that if we improve defensively then we essentially will be unbeatable. It is all about energy and effort.”
Following this win, Cal will be moving forward to compete in the MPSF Championships this Friday. Their first match-up will be against Penn State Behrend and from there they will continue to participate in the rest of the tournament where they will face teams such as USC, UCLA and once again Stanford.
Whoever wins the MPSF tournament will get an automatic bid for the NCAA championships in three weeks. If the Bears are able to come out on top this will be their second consecutive NCAA championship.
Going to the NCAA Championships last year instilled a confidence within the team.
“We all get the feeling when we look at each other that we deserve to be in the NCAA and that’s where we belong,” Papanikolaou said. “It’s an amazing thing to be able to say Cal is always in the NCAA or Cal will always be in the NCAAs because that’s the ultimate goal and first step towards winning a second ring this year.”