The 3rd ranked California Golden Bears have won the 2015 Big Splash against No.5 Stanford.
After a close first 3 quarters, the Bears had a great 4th quarter to beat Stanford by a 13-8 final score.
Senior Colin Mulcahy leads the Bears with 5 goals. Sophomore Luca Cupido scored 4 goals in addition to plenty of steals and field blocks. Goalkeeper Lazar Andric was able to make some key saves.
Kudos to Stanford goalkeeper Drew Holland to keep the first half close. Holland stopped many good looks by the Bears so that the match was tied at 6-6 at the half.
Stanford actually went ahead by 2 goals early in the 3rd quarter but the Bears fought back with goals by Cupido and freshman sensation Hooper. Mulcahy scored the last goal of the 3rd quarter to put the Bears up 9-8 with 8 minutes to go.
In a dominant 4th quarter, Mulcahy scored again with 4:47 left to the Bears up by 2. Quickly, the Bears jump on the lead and quickly added two more goals (Cupido and Mulcahy). It was a dominant display of water polo in the 4th quarter by the Bears.
Stanford's Bonnani, leading goal scorer in conference history, got his goals per usual but was somewhat limited in the second half after foul trouble.
With the victory, Bears get to take home the Steve Heaston Trophy.
With the win, the Bears earn a 3rd seed in the MPSF tournament next weekend at USC. Bears are in a good position to earn an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament even without the automatic bid from winning the MPSF tournament but it would certainly be a huge morale booster to win next weekend - if just to deny the chance of someone other than UCLA earning the automatic bid.
Pac-12 Networks will have the championship match of the MPSF tournament next Sunday. We shall see if the Bears can make it to that.
GOAL ON YOU BEARS!
No.3 California Golden Bears (20-5, 6-2 in MPSF) at No.5 Stanford Cardinal (20-6, 5-3 in MPSF)
When: 1 pm PT
TV: Pac-12 Bay Area
Just like how the Bears managed to finally win their regular season match against USC earlier this year (after beating them in tournament play last year), an official win over Stanford in the Big Splash would be a welcomed change for the Bears. Cal defeated Stanford earlier this season (14-11 victory) in tournament play (SoCal tournament), but today's match is the one where the Steve Heaston Trophy, named after former Cal coach 1989-98 who won 3 NCAA titles) is awarded to the winner.
In case you missed it, here are the highlights from Cal's 12-10 win over USC earlier this season on Halloween.
In 2015, the Bears have finally returned to the form of a national title contender after a couple of off-seasons by the lofty Cal Men's Water Polo standard. Yes, No.1 UCLA looks kind of dominant, at least record-wise, but the Bears lost a 8-7 match to them. The before mentioned wins over Stanford and USC show that the Bears can compete and beat those guys.
Bears average 14.32 goals per game with freshman Johnny Hooper leading the way with 2.52 goals per game (best for 3rd in scoring individually). Freshman Odysseas Masmanidis (a Greek junior national team player) is next with 2.20 (4th in the country) and then senior Colin Mulcahy with 1.68 goals per game (good for 15th in the country). Complimenting the great freshman class is a superb Cal sophomore class, lead by Luca Cupido who spent the summer playing with the US National Team. Sophomore Conor Neumann scored 3 goals in the Bears' earlier season victory over Stanford (Masmanidis also scored 3 in that match).
Replacing the graduated former All-American Jon Sibley in the cage are juniors Lazar Andric and Peter O'Laughlin. Andric has been the main guy for the Bears.
For Stanford, they are led by the top scorer in MPSF in senior Bret Bonanni. Bonanni is the all-time leading scorer in the storied conference and lead the league again with 82 goals.
This is the regular season finale for the Golden Bears before the all important MPSF tournament next weekend at USC.