Bears Defense Pacifies Upset-Minded Tigers

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Coach Kirk Everist's dad always used to tell him that he'd have bad shooting days, but he should never have a bad defensive day because it's just hustle.

The top-ranked Cal men's water polo team (13-2, 3-0 MPSF) followed that formula Friday, making up for a subpar offensive outing with feverish defense to beat No. 7 Pacific, 11-8, at Spieker Aquatics Complex.

Cal's defense only faltered at the end of the second quarter, allowing two Tiger goals within 30 seconds, including one at the buzzer to finish out the half.

"We had a couple mental letdowns that hurt us and they took advantage of," Everist said. "We had a match-up problem ... and we shot the ball with 17 seconds left when there was no shot clock, allowing them to score at the buzzer."

Those defensive lapses were responsible for a 7-4 score at halftime while the second quarter could have otherwise been closed out as a perfect 5-0 run for the Bears.

Despite the baneful close to the half, Cal finished the game with 20 turnovers from Pacific (10-6, 1-2), drawing seven offensive fouls and snatching 13 steals. Bear two-meter defenders Zach Greenwood and Brian Dudley are largely responsible for drawing so many fouls.

"That's about half of the game as far as possessions where they weren't able to get a shot off (because of turnovers)," Everist said. "Our defenders were doing a good job of getting in position and putting themselves in the spot where they could get that call."

Additionally, Cal only had four ejections on the game, compared with the eight it drew.

Everist said "a lot of defense is communication, hustle and desire", elements the Bears heaped a healthy serving of on the Tigers.

Cal, however, had a lot of room for improvement on the offensive end.

"We had some open players that we weren't quite as aggressive in getting the ball to them and we didn't hustle getting the ball to them," Everist said. "In a few cases it could have given us a little bit more of a cushion."

The lack of ball movement manifested itself in missed power play conversions. The Bears only capitalized on two of six of their six-on-fives.

Their offensive sloppiness also showed when Greenwood and senior Zach White both clanged what should have been sure shots off the goal bars before they buried the ball in net.

"(Those are) pretty high percentage opportunities and you have to put it away the first time," Everist said. "You're not always going to get that lucky where the ball comes right back to you. You don't want to live on that."

Friday's win over Pacific marks Cal's fifth straight.

"We weren't quite as crisp as I would have liked, but it's a win and we'll take it," Everist said.

Tags: KIRK EVERIST, IVAN RACKOV, CAL WATER POLO


Byron Atashian covers men's water polo. Contact him at [email protected]



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