Entering this Saturday, the lone blemish on the 2017 record of the California Golden Bears was an 9-8 OT loss in the Mountain Pacific Invitational semifinal to UCLA from the home of USC on September 23rd. Golden Bears (16-1, 1-0 in MPSF) are able to avenge that loss about a month later, in arguably one of the best victory of the season thus far.
It was a back and forth match early in this one. Bears jumped out to a 2-0 lead only for the host Bruins to score 3 straight to take the lead. In the middle of the 2nd quarter, the Bears scored to break a 4-4 tie and never looked back. Taking a 7-6 halftime lead, the Bears outscored the Bruins 3-1 in the 3rd quarter. The team traded two goals apiece in the final 8 minutes for the final score.
Senior Kevin Le Vine was outstanding inside the cage today. He made 11 saves and benefited from his defense’s 7 field blocks (including 2 by captain Luca Cupido). With last year’s NCAA MVP Lazar Andric staying on the Cal staff as a coach and mentor, Le Vine has shored up concerns about the Bears coming into this year due to the graduation of Andric.
It was a balanced attack for the prolific Cal offense with 7 Bears tallying at least a goal. Odysseas Masmanidis led the way with a hat trick. Fellow Greek Bear in freshman Nikos Delagrammatikas, 2016 Rio Calympian Luca Cupido, and senior Conor Neumann each contributed two goals. Spencer Farrar, Safak Simsek, and Johnny Hooper added a goal apiece. Two of the goals came with the man advantage.
.@CalWaterPolo's Conor Neumann showing off that . #NCAAMWP— Pac-12 Network (@Pac12Network) October 21, 2017
Watch: https://t.co/ZLABag9Ytt pic.twitter.com/f2g3muhZVr
. @CalWaterPolo's Spencer Farrar gets the job done! #NCAAMWP— Pac-12 Network (@Pac12Network) October 21, 2017
Watch: https://t.co/ZLABag9Ytt pic.twitter.com/CoOKJp086N
For the Bruins, Farmer lead the way with 3 goals. Their goalie Wolf made 8 saves. UCLA is now 15-2 on the year, while 0-1 in MPSF.
Although the Bears have won every match since the UCLA loss, including a win over Stanford, they have stayed hungry. In the post-match interview of an easy 21-9 home win over Santa Clara, Cupido was very critical of the Cal defense (which also lost 2-3 key players to graduation). Bears did a fine job of that today with 6 steals (Cupido did pick up 2 exclusions in this one, 3 would have meant a disqualification).
Golden Bears will visit Long Beach State at noon tomorrow before returning to Berkeley to host No.1 USC in two weeks (November 4th). The MPSF tournament is next before essentially the top 3 teams (corresponding to the top 3 teams in the country) advances to the NCAA tournament - one automatic berth and the two at-large bids. USC will host the 2017 NCAA tournament.