After an up and down season, No. 4 Cal Men's Water Polo (17-7, 5-3) are peaking at just the right time. Without a great regular season performance to be serious contender for the lone at-large bid in the 4 team NCAA tournament, the Bears' best/only chance to be the final foursome is by winning the extremely tough MPSF tournament (where the best 9 college water polo team in the country resides...and yes, that's the entire conference). Standing in the Bears' way is No.1 USC (26-0), who by the way, are hosting this tournament. GO BEARS!
Time: 3 PM PT
Online Stream: Pac-12 Digital
Twitter: (@CalWaterPolo) - generally no scoring update, but you can tweet the team encouragements
And it comes down to this, one last shot to extend the season and make it to the NCAA tournament. Bears haven't had that great of a season, by the usual lofty standard, having lost 7 matches already and winning no tournaments. In fact, one can argue that the Bears have been playing so poorly that they have only played USC once this year (7-6 loss down in LA), who have been undefeated and won both of the regular season tournament that the Bears have also participated.
On October 27, the Bears lost 11-10 to Long Beach State to fall to 10-7 season record, which also saw the dismissal of 5 Men's Water Polo players (including two key starters) mid season (I do have to point out that the Bears did look pretty good in the dominant Big Splash win over No.3 Furd). Since then, however, the Bears stormed past the rest of the schedule, going 5-0 (winning by at least 2 goals each match) to close the regular season and finish 3rd in the conference. Then this weekend (while you and I are lazily digesting our Thanksgiving dinners) beat No.7 Peppderdine 11-9 and No.2 UCLA 12-9 to get to this championship game.
What made Bear's semifinal win over UCLA that much more special is that two of the top Bears (2012 London Calympian sophomore Aleksa Saponjic and junior Collin Smith) were unavailable due to their flagrant fouls in the quarterfinal game. Sophomore Matt Russell scored 3 goals and sophomore goalie Jon Sibley made 11 saves to send an inspired Cal team over the Bruins.
Even though the Bears just beat the No.2 Bruins (27-5), I don't think the Bears has lept over UCLA for the lone at-large bid, if the Bears are unable to pull off an upset. These kind of desperation may be just what is need for the team to keep on rolling.
If the Bears can win today's match, then they will participate in the NCAA tournament next weekend.
ROLL ON YOU BEARS!!!