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Golden Medals: Cal Men’s Water Polo and Cross Country Fall 2016 Previews

Time to preview the last few Olympic sports of the Cal Fall season.

Water Polo - Olympics: Day 9
Rio 2016 Calympian Luca Cupido will be counted on to lead the 2016 Cal Men’s Water Polo team to a 14th NCAA title.
Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images

In case you missed it, I wrote about Cal Women’s Soccer and Field Hockey two weeks ago. Cal Volleyball and Men’s Soccer was previewed last week. We will get to Cal Men’s Water Polo and Cross Country later today, after a quick recap of the Cal Olympic sports action from the past week.

Recap of Last Week:

Cal Men’s Soccer (1-0-1)

Cal Men’s Soccer stayed undefeated to open up their 2016 season.

Cal 2, St. Mary’s 2

Bears fought back from one goal deficit twice to earn an opening draw to the season.

Gaels scored first in 31st minute when Alex Bramen scored for the visitors. Less than two minutes later, Christian Thierjung scored the equalizer.

St. Mary’s went ahead again in the 59th minute when Rafael Sanchez converted on a penalty kick. Jose Carrera-Garcia equalized in the 73rd minute.

Freshman Drake Callender started the match between the pipes but had to leave the game late in the match. Previously injured sophomore Jonathan Klinsmann was pressed into action perhaps a week before the original plan.

Cal 2, Penn State 1 (OT)

Nick Lima scored a brace, including the Golden Goal, to give the Golden Bears a big win over Penn State. Bears dominated the possession and the attack for the bulk of the match, but had to play with a man down after freshman Simon Lekressner was red carded for a reckless collision with the Penn State goalkeeper (that knocked their keeper out of the match as well).

Penn State earned the first goal of the match in the 7th minute when Connor Maloney scored on a header. Bears finally equalized early in the 2nd half when Nick Lima found the back of the net from long range. The match stayed tied until less than 2 minutes into the first OT when Lima heads in a nice cross from Trevor Haberkorn to give the Golden Bears their 1st victory of the year.

Checkout the highlight videos below from the Pac-12 Networks.

Cal Women’s Soccer (3-1-0)

After going 1-1 in the first weekend, beating Cal Poly at home but falling to Santa Clara in the 2nd OT, Cal Women’s Soccer remained perfect in Berkeley with a pair of shutout victories. Bears and keeper Emily Boyd have yet to concede a goal in Berkeley through 3 matches.

Cal 2, New Mexico 0

Kelly Fitzgerald gave the Bears a lead just before the half with her first goal of the year. Ifeoma Onumonu scored her 2nd goal of the year early in the second half as the Bears cruised to a 2-0 victory.

Cal 1, Portland 0

Late in this match (79th minute), Kelly Fitzgerald scores on a penalty kick for the final margin. Bears again had a strong lead in shot opportunities and possessions (according to the recap) despite only winning by a lone goal.

Cal Volleyball (2-0)

Bears won the Molten Classic from their home court. Senior middle blocker Janelle Jordan was named the tournament MVP. Libero Maddy Kerr and outside hitter Christian Alftin were also named to the All-Tournament team.

Cal 3, Southern Utah 0 (25-19, 25-9, 25-17)

Bears opened the year with an easy sweep over an overmatched Southern Utah. Middle blocker Janelle Jordan had a great all around match.

Cal 3, UC Riverside 2 (20-25, 20-25, 25-21, 25-22, 15-7)

It was a different story in the second match of the season as the Bears had to rally from a 0-2 deficit to win this one. Jordan set a career high with 14 kills. Given it is a 5 setter, setter Alyssa Jensen recorded 57 assists and libero Maddy Kerr got 30 digs. Outside hitter Christina Alftin had a career high 19 kills. Freshman opposite Bailee Huizenga had 13 kills.

Cal Field Hockey (0-1)

Cal 2, Northeastern 3 (OT)

Last second goal allowed Northeastern to send this match to OT where the Huskies eventually denied the Golden Bears of their first official victory at their new home, at the Underhill Field. Northeastern scored on a penalty corner in the 81st minute.

A pair of sophomores in Melina Moore and Janaye Sakkas scored for the Bears.

Cal Men’s Water Polo

2015 result: 24-7, 3rd in the country

Cal Men’s Water Polo had a bounce back year in 2015, finishing 3rd in the country and beating Stanford 13-8 at the Big Splash along the way. Bears returned to the NCAA Championship for the first time since 2010 (the field was expanded in 2013, allowing a 3rd MPSF squad to make the championship).

Bears are once again picked to finish 3rd in the country, behind UCLA and USC. Bears pushed eventual champ UCLA to a close 11-12 defeat in the MPSF championship last year.

Since the Golden Bears will open in Princeton next week (kind of in my own backyard), I hope to go check out their first match on Friday and speak to the team. I am hoping to have a more comprehensive knowledge of the team then.

In the mean time, the Golden Bears should be lead by 2016 Rio Calympian junior Luca Cupido (USA) and his all around game. Goalie Lazar Andric is back. Also back are sophomores goal scorers in Johnny Hooper and Odysseas Masmanidis, both earned MPSF honors.

Strong upperclassmen leadership will come from captain in junior Pedro Stellet. Junior Nicholas Carniglia who has been training with the USA National Team and was one of the last cut to make the Rio 2016 Olympic squad is also back.

Golden Bears do have to find replacements for the graduated Colin Mulcahy and Thomas Agramonte, but the young Bears should be battle tested from 2015. I don’t know if the Bears are truly good enough to overtake UCLA for the men’s water polo throne, but Cal is back to being a perennial threat to win the NCAA national championship, adding to the national leading 13 titles and for the first time since 2007.

Cal Cross Country

Cal Cross Country now has an official head coach and she’s a familiar one. Shayla Houlihan who has been with the program since 2012 was promoted to be the head coach of Cal Cross Country back in April.

Much of Cal's recent success in cross country and track's distance events can be attributed to Houlihan's tutelage, including three Golden Bears earning cross country All-American honors – Bethan Knights, Kelsey Santisteban and Chris Walden.

"It is such an honor to be named head cross country coach of this prestigious program," Houlihan said of the appointment. "Carrying on the strong traditions that have been built before me on and off the course is a top priority. I am looking forward to building upon what we have been able to achieve in my time here with the wealth of talented young men and women at Cal. I am grateful to Tony, senior associate athletic director Foti Mellis and Director of Athletics Mike Williams for believing in me."

Last years saw Bethan Knights winning a race or two before she completely disappeared from the lineup (only to return for the track and field season). In Knight’s absence, now sophomore Marissa Williams stepped up. She was the top Cal finisher at the Pac-12 with a 13th finish and placed 32nd in the NCAA West Regional. There is a bit of hype surrounding the Cal women with two accomplished runner in Knights and Williams. Jordyn Colter is another Cal Bears who has had success; she got on the podium for the 1500m during the USA Track and Field juniors this summer. The Cal women are seeking their first NCAA berth as a team since 2011.

The Cal men are coming off a top 25 finish (23rd) from last year. The graduation of Chris Walden does leave a huge hole at the top for the Bears, however. Sophomore Kai Benedict had a good summer of running in the World U20 Championship in steeplechase. Maybe that will translate to the Cross Country season.

Once again, the Cross Country info are hard to come by. If any readers know more about what is going on with the team and are willing to share. Please let me know in the comments section below.

Coming up this week:

Golden Bears are on the road for the most part in this week.

Cal Volleyball is down at the LBSU/UCI Mizuno Invitational. Bears will play Long Beach State at 1 pm today. Then play Northeastern at 10 AM and UCI at 7 PM on Saturday.

Cal Women’s Soccer, ranked 19th, is traveling in Texas this weekend. Bears play at No.15 Texas Tech today at 5 pm. Bears will then travel to Austin (a Bear territory across all sports in recent years) to face Texas on Sunday at 9 AM.

Cal Men’s Soccer, ranked 22nd, is in Bloomington, Indiana for matches against No.5/5 Indiana today at 5:30 PM and then No. 4/12 Notre Dame (but also at Bloomington rather than South Bend) on Sunday at 9:30 AM.

More local is Cal Cross Country who will run University of San Francisco Invitational on Saturday.

For those in the friendly confine of Berkeley, Cal Field Hockey will be home for two matches this weekend. Bears host Kent State at 6 PM today and then Michigan on Sunday at 12 PM (there will apparently be live video of the Michigan match).