Cal Men’s Water Polo at NCAA Championships
Golden Bears are two wins away from extending their NCAA best national championships title count in men’s water polo to 15. A back-to-back NCAA national title in 2017 will mark the 98th national team championship in Cal history.
Of course, the path to another NCAA title will not be easy. 2nd seed California Golden Bears (20-3) will have to first go through host USC Trojans who were a easy 16-4 winner over Harvard on Thursday night, as expected. Bears have only met USC once this year, a fairly dominant 6-3 victory, a match that the Bears won despite missing their team MVP and MPSF Player of the Year Luca Cupido to an illness.
Should the Bears advance to the championship final on Sunday, the likely opponent there are the top seed UCLA Bruins. UCLA will face Pacific in the other semifinal after Pacific just edged UC Davis 13-12. Bears are 1-2 against the Bruins in 2017 with a pair of close 8-9 losses in tournament semifinals in addition to a 12-9 win in the regular season meet.
All three MPSF teams are quite familiar with one another. Last time out, the Bears needed an epic 10-9 OT win over rival Stanford in the MPSF tournament 3rd place match to secure the 2nd (and last) at-large bid for the NCAA. USC defeated UCLA in the MPSF final but only got the 3rd seed (thus their play-in match on Thursday against Harvard).
Luca Cupido, senior and 2016 Rio Calympian, is the heart of the team. Playing a variety of roles for the Bears, he compiled a MPSF best 57 goals, with 46 steals, 44 assists, 18 field blocks, and 32 ejections earned. He carried the Bears against Stanford in that 3rd place match. Cupido scored the game tying goal with 4 seconds left in regulation. He then demonstrated great individual effort in putting the Bears ahead by two goals (this goal turned out to be the margin of victory) as seen below.
Beyond Cupido, Bears have a high octane offense with junior Johnny Hooper from the perimeter and Odysseas Masmanidis from the inside being common sources of goals. Other postseason heroes for the Bears last year who are back include sophomore Safak Simsek and senior Conor Neumann (who was disqualified in both of Cal’s big MPSF matches two weekends ago). Defensively, Bears will rely on Cupido along with freshman Nikos Delagrammatikas and senior Nicholas Carniglia.
Inside the cage for the Bears will be senior Kevin Le Vine who has seamlessly taken over the starting goalkeeping duty from Lazar Andric, last year’s NCAA MVP and the current student-coach. An emotional player, Le Vine have shown the ability to make great saves in key one-on-one situations.
Adding another NCAA championship to my travel experience, I will be present at USC for the action this weekend. I am looking forward to some exciting water polo action and will share some of those on the CGB Twitter account this weekend.
Semifinal 1: UCLA vs. Pacific at 3pm PT
Semifinal 2: Cal vs. USC at 5:30pm PT
Championship final: 3 pm PT
All of the matches will be streamed online for free (and we will have open threads for each of the Cal matches). The link to the streams are also linked above.
Cal Men’s and Women’s Swimming at Georgia Fall Invitational
Friday thru Sunday, Cal swimmers will be racing against some of the best in the country. The participating teams in addition to Cal are Michigan, Virginia, Auburn (M only), and host Georgia. Granted, there is no Stanford women nor Texas men, the defending NCAA champs, at this meet; nonetheless, this is a good measuring stick for the Bears at this juncture of the season.
While the Bears will have plenty of more opportunities, up until the Pac-12, to post NCAA qualifying times, expect plenty of Bears to qualify this weekend.
For the men, the Bears will have to race without superstar Ryan Murphy by counting on a phenomenal freshman class. Sean Grieshop, Ryan Hoffer, Bryce Mefford headline the top ranked class in the country. They will complement veterans such as senior Justin Lynch, junior Andrew Seliskar (apparently scheduled to swim more breaststroke this year than fly), senior Matt Josa, sophomore Michael Jansen, and sophomore Zheng Wen Quah, the Singapore Olympian who debuted for the Bears at the NCAA last year.
For the women, the Bears will have the star power of Calympians
Kathleen Baker (apparently sick and will rest from this meet) and Abbey Weitzeil to go along with Katie McLaughlin, Maddie Murphy, Noemie Thomas, Valerie Hull, and Amy Bilquist. Newcomer for the Bears include fellow 2016 Rio Netherlands Calympian in Robin Neumann (who may partially replace the since graduated Egyptian Calympian in Fardia Osman, who had served as relay anchors for multiple years) and IMer in Sarah Darcel.
The Cal women’s team got an inspirational talk from Cal alum and legend Mary T. Meagher before the meat.
So cool to meet one of my bigggest inspirations and role models as an athlete, Mary T. Meagher! Cooler that @CalWSwim had the opportunity to listen to her great advice. What an opportunity!? The BEAR experience is special. #GoBears #BearFam ♀️ pic.twitter.com/o8f43OMA9V— Sarah Dunleavy (@Coach_Dunleavy) December 1, 2017
The names may change every few years, but the high standard of Cal swimming remain in both sexes under Dave Durden (men’s head coach) and Teri McKeever (women’s head coach).