Before Cal Football earned that Big Game win, Cal Men’s Water Polo kept their championship dream alive by beating top seed USC in the MPSF tournament semifinal by a 12-9 score earlier on Saturday. Golden Bears are now in position to potentially make the NCAA postseason field this year IF they can follow the football team’s example and beat Stanford to win this MPSF championship Big Splash on Sunday afternoon.
With everything to play for and nothing to lose, not to mention the home pool advantage, expect the Golden Bears to do their best to avenge for both last year’s MPSF championship loss (when Stanford was more desperate) as well as this year’s Big Splash loss. It should be an exciting match.
On Saturday, a pair of freshmen stepped up for this Cal team in what has been a rebuilding year. Bears showed that they have learned quite a bit from this year’s atypical 10 losses already. Freshman keeper Adrian Weinberg made 13 saves on 22 shots. Fellow freshman Nikolaos Papanikolaou scored 2 goals and assisted on 3 more to lead the match in points. Both Cal freshmen have earned the conference Freshman of the Week honors this season.
Bears did a good job of staying ahead for most of the match. Bears had a one goal lead and kept that going into the final quarter. After USC tie the match with 2:36 left, senior captain Jordan Hoover stepped up big to extend his Cal career (sure, Bears would have played in the 3rd place match on Sunday if they lost, but that game would not have meant much). Hoover first drew an exclusion than converted the go ahead goal to give the Bears the lead; the senior center then drew a penalty, converted by fellow senior Safak Simsek, to give Cal a two goal lead.
In the latter semifinal, Stanford needed OT to edge UCLA 16-15. Stanford led for the most part but allowed the Bruins to equalize late in regulation.
The Cal-Stanford final is a rematch of last year’s MPSF championship final when Stanford won and earned the automatic bid. Cal, which probably thought that they will make the postseason, got left out, likely due to the bad loss during the season to Harvard. Bears would love to return the favor on Sunday.
California Golden Bears vs. Stanford Cardinal
Where: Spieker Aquatics Complex (Berkeley, CA)
When: 3 pm PT
TV: Pac-12 Network
GO BEARS! BEAT STANFORD!