That was not the result that Cal fans were looking for. In a back-and-forth match, Cal and Stanford remained tied after 32 minutes in regulation. Stanford, unfortunately, outscored the Golden Bears by 1 in OT to win their 2nd straight Big Splash.
Below is the “highlights” for completeness.
Regardless of this result, the top 4 may again be reshuffled next weekend at the MPSF tournament hosted by USC. Cal, Stanford, UCLA, and USC will vie for the 1 automatic bid and 2 at-large bid in the NCAA tournament, hosted by Stanford.
USC defeated UCLA in the other rivalry match on Saturday.
Although the California Golden Bears (16-4, 1-1 in MPSF) has made the NCAA postseason for the past three years, including winning it all for the all-time best 17th time in 2016, while Stanford Cardinal (17-2, 1-1 in MPSF) has missed the postseason for all 3 of those years, the Big Splash (the water polo’s version of The Game) has always been competitive with Stanford managing to win the Steve Heaston Trophy (the men’s water polo version of The Axe) last year with a 11-10 victory (Bears have won it for the 3 straight years before that).
Of course, Golden Bears played that close match without eventual Peter Cutino award (the water polo’s version of the Heisman Trophy) winner Luca Cupido, who was nursing an injury then. A week later, Cupido carried the Golden Bears to a key 10-9 win in the 3rd place match of the MPSF tournament to lead the Bears back to the NCAA tournament (and kept Stanford at home). Yes, the MPSF Tournament in next weekend will once again be pivotal, but today’s Big Splash will also carry quite a bit of significance in which 3 out of the tight group between Cal, Stanford, UCLA, and USC will make the NCAA tournament (hosted in the Bay Area by Stanford this year).
Through 2 matches, all 4 schools are still alive in winning the regular season MPSF title and the top overall seed for the MPSF tournament. Cal defeated UCLA but lost to USC. Stanford defeated USC but lost to UCLA. The UCLA-USC match will be played 3 hours after the Big Splash today.
Based on the national ranking (which doesn’t mean that much), Golden Bears are the ones with the most to prove, being ranked 4th right now. Stanford is ranked 3rd for the moment.
Graduation of key players (on both the NCAA and International stage) between Cal and UCLA this past offseason has reset the collegiate men’s water polo landscape this year.
Golden Bears have lost to USC twice, UCLA once, in addition to a terrible loss to Harvard early in the year (yes, the 2017-18 school year has been weird so far with Men’s Water Polo losing to Harvard and Men’s Basketball losing to Yale). Stanford lost to USC in the MPSF Invitational championship match, in addition to the regular season loss to UCLA.
In their last home match, Golden Bears consistently kept an one or two goal lead over the Baby Bears. Senior prolific scorer Johnny Hooper scored a brace in that match, along with sophomore Nikos Delagrammatikas. Bears won 9-7 in their last appearance at Spieker Pool.
Things were not quite as close in the Bears’ road loss at USC where the Trojans jumped out to a big lead and never relinquished it despite a 4-goal match from Hooper.
Cal Bears will also honor their 3 experienced seniors today in team USA national team member Johnny Hooper (team leading 43 goals despite missing the first quarter of the season due to national team obligations) and team Greece national team members in Vassilis Tzavaras (32 goals this year) and Odysseas Masmanidis (22 goals this year).
Ben Hallock is Stanford’s top leading scorer with 53 goals. Bennett Williams and Tyler Abramson has 47 and 45 goals apiece.
Brazilian junior Bernardo Carelli with 10.5 saves per game is the 3rd different starting keeper for the Bears in 3 years. Oliver Lewis with 11.46 saves per game is the man in the cage for the Cardinal.
It should be a close match in a great atmosphere that hopefully will give the Golden Bears the edge.
Stanford Cardinal at California Golden Bears
Where: Spieker Aquatics Complex (Berkeley, CA)
When: Noon PT
TV: Pac-12 Networks
GO BEARS! BEAT STANFORD!