It’s a deja vu of sort for the Cal Men’s Water Polo from the Spieker Aquatics Complex as the Golden Bears defeated the USC Trojans yet again. Sure, there is no NCAA championship at stake in this one, but that does not appear to matter for the two top teams in men’s college water polo. Golden Bears are triumphant 6-3 ahead of the regular season finale at The Farm on Thursday in the Big Splash against No.4 Stanford.
It's over! The Bears finish the season UNDEFEATED at home and knock off USC on Senior Day! #GOBEARS pic.twitter.com/ql0k2hKf8F— Cal Water Polo (@CalWaterPolo) November 4, 2017
Bears were playing with senior, 2016 Rio Calympian, and team’s leading scorer Luca Cupido who was out with an illness. Nevertheless, the Bears played a great (and rather physical) match defensively to hold the high scoring Trojans to just 3 goals.
Senior Kevin Le Vine, who has never got play time until this year, was phenomenal in making 16 saves. Le Vine stopped a wide variety of shots and even a couple from point blank range. Le Vine and the Cal defense held the Trojans scoreless in their 6 power play opportunities.
Offensively, the Bears were slow to get on the board. USC drew first blood by scoring the only goal of the first quarter. Bears owned the 2nd quarter to pull ahead 3-1 with sophomore Spencer Farrar scoring a pair of close strikes thanks to some great Cal passing.
USC equalized the match in the 3rd quarter before Cal’s Johnny Hooper found a way to put the Bears ahead just before the 4th quarter.
Johnny Hooper . #NCAAMWP@CalWaterPolo up 4-3.— Pac-12 Network (@Pac12Network) November 4, 2017
Watch: https://t.co/ZLABag9Ytt pic.twitter.com/Gqz3fYQOha
Bear tagged on two more goals in the 4th quarter, both with USC playing without their star goalie Baron. Baron earned an exclusion leading to an easy Masmanidis goal. Bears finished the match with a long strike in the final minute when Baron was pulled for an extra attacker.
Congratulations to head coach Kirk Everist and the entire Cal Men’s Water Polo for this satisfying win. Even though the Bears would likely need to conquer the Trojans again in their home pool for the 2017 NCAA title, they surely look like a good bet to repeat today.
ROLL ON YOU BEARS!
From the same pool as last December, 4th, it’s a rematch of the 2016 NCAA Men’s Water Polo Championship match this morning when the 2nd ranked California Golden Bears face the top ranked Southern Cal Trojans. On 12/4/2016, the Golden Bears are triumphant by an 11-8 OT score over USC to win the program’s 14th NCAA national title (extending Cal’s record for the most national championships).
Both programs again look to be on the collision course to meet in the final again (although UCLA, responsible for the lone losses of both Cal and USC, would have something to say about this). In the penultimate match of the regular season before the MPSF tournament, the Bears and the Trojans will meet in Berkeley to decide the top spot in the sport...for this week.
USC will host the 2017 NCAA tournament this December. In this first meeting between these two teams (although another one in the MPSF tourney is possible), Bears will look to extend that mental edge over the Trojans by defending the Bear Territory that is Spieker.
Both teams have a very prolific offense. USC (in more matches) have scored 364 times, lad by Marko Vavic and Blake Edwards with 39 and 37 goals, respectively. The high octane Cal offense has scored 260 goals, led by senior captain Luca Cupido (2016 USA Rio Calympian) with 50 goals along with Odysseas Masmanidis and Johnny Hooper with 36 and 34 goals, respectively.
Despite graduating all the defenders and the starting keeper, the Cal defense has maintained a high level of play, knowing that that will likely decide whether the Golden Bears can repeat as NCAA champs. Being a great two way player, Cupido is also the Bears’ top defender. A key for the Bears’ success would be to ensure that Cupido is not DQ’ed due to picking up 3 exclusion fouls.
Kevin Le Vine has taken over the top goaltending spot from Lazar Andric, who is still with the program as a student coach after being named the MVP of last year’s NCAA tournament. For the Trojans, McQuin Baron is back to being the starting goaltender.
It should be an exciting one.
In their spare time earlier this season, the men’s water polo team had some fun with the volleyball team by trying the other sport.
No.1⃣ vs. No.2⃣— Cal Athletics (@CalAthletics) November 2, 2017
It doesn't get any bigger than this. @CalWaterPolo takes on USC at 11 a.m. on Saturday at Spieker. pic.twitter.com/bhwuoxXhMx
Cal Men’s Water Polo (17-1, 1-0 in MPSF) vs. USC (21-1, 1-0 in MPSF)
Where: Spieker Aquatics Center (Berkeley, CA)
When: 11 AM PT
TV: Pac-12 Networks