NCAA Tournament Quarterfinals: Cal (19-8) - Arizona State (15-10)
Coming off a 3rd place tournament finish in the MPSF (by far the toughest water polo conference in the country), the Bears are the 4th seed in the now 10 team NCAA Tournament (two extra-play in games are added this season, leading to two more at-large bids which went to Cal and Arizona State as the 4th and the 5th seeds).
I previewed the Cal post season last week here.
Congrats to Dora Antal, the MPSF Newcomer of the Year! #CalWWPolo.— Cal W Water Polo (@CalWWPolo) April 29, 2014
Dora Antal is the first Cal player ever to be named MPSF Newcomer of the Year.— Cal W Water Polo (@CalWWPolo) April 29, 2014
Antal was named to the All-MPSF first team. Senior Ashley Young took second team honors.— Cal W Water Polo (@CalWWPolo) April 29, 2014
Junior Kelly McKee and freshman Anna Illes are All-MPSF honorable mention.— Cal W Water Polo (@CalWWPolo) April 29, 2014
Antal, Illes and Roser Tarrago all made the MPSF All-Newcomer team. #GoBears.— Cal W Water Polo (@CalWWPolo) April 29, 2014
The Bears are a fairly young group relying on several key freshmen in leading scorer Dora Antal, Anna Illes, and Roser Tarrago. Senior Ashley Young had the hat trick in the basically NCAA clinching MPSF quarterfinal game against San Jose State for the Bears. The Golden Bears also start a freshman in Madeline Trabucco in goal.
Dora Antal had the game winning sudden death goal for the Bears in their last game, the 3rd place match against Arizona State that went beyond the usual OT, as the Bears won 8-7. Earlier in the season, Arizona State won 6-5 down in Tempe in the regular season matchup.
Should the Bears be able to get past the Sun Devils again, the very likely opponent in the semifinal would be the top ranked 'Furd who had beat the Bears 3 times already, including the last two weekends of play. There is a consolation field for the NCAA's, but let's allow the other teams to worry about that.
In the MPSF Tournament two weeks ago, the Bears won two games in pressure situation: the over time. In a must-win game against San Jose State (then No.5 team in the country), the Bears triumphed in regular OT (two extra 3 minutes period) to clinch a NCAA tournament berth. After a loss to 'Furd in the semi, the Bears played even more water polo (clearly because they love the sport so much) to beat ASU.
ASU are in their 1st NCAA Tournament ever (also thanks to the expanded field).
From their gamenote:
WHO WILL STEP INTO THE SPOTLIGHT?
The ASU program lost two of the greatest Sun Devils to grace the Mona Plummer Aquatic Center to graduation following the 2013 season in Shannon Haas and Alicia Brightwell. The two sit second and third on ASU’s all-time scoring list, respectively, and leave a hole to be filled as far as scoring is concerned in 2014. The two combined for 156 of ASU’s 351 goals last season (44.4 percent), a figure that isn’t hard to overlook. Among the front runners to come in and make an immediate dent in that hole this season is junior Petra Pardi. Among ASU’s most improved players in 2013, Pardi had 45 goals on the season to finish third on the team in the category. She had 16 multi-goal games on the season, not far behind Brightwell (21) and Haas (20) for the team lead. Ao Gao had 43 goals on the season and the two-time Olympian is among ASU’s most polished all-around players but her strength is in her defense, where she was named an All-American last season.
WHY NOT THE NEWCOMERS?
The Sun Devils welcomed an absolutely stacked class of freshmen to the roster this season and two of them have made their mark right out of the gates for the Sun Devils. Alkistis Benekou currently leads all Sun Devil scorers with 52 goals this season and fellow freshman Izabella Chiappini is right behind her with 47 goals.The combo has combined for 25 multi-goal games with Benekou logging four or more goals in an impressive five games thus far. The ASU offense has relied heavily on the two youngsters have combined for 99 of ASU’s 276 total goals this season (36 percent).