Men's Water Polo: Big Splash Set for Saturday, Bears Face Top-Ranked Card

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Prominent sinners in Greek mythology found themselves in Tartarus, where goddesses of vengeance called Erinyes kept them from reaching for succulent fruit hanging overhead, just out of their grasp.

The No. 3 Cal men's water polo team hasn't messed with Zeus that we know of, but managed to get its own personal tormentor in the form of No. 1 Stanford, which has consistently blocked its path to its most cherished goals.

The Bears (13-4, 3-2 in Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) have a long history with the Cardinal, most recently losing by a combined three goals in their last two meetings.

Cal has reached the branch before, however, upsetting the eventual national champions last season in the Big Splash. Russell Bernstein saved 13 shots to help the Bears fight out a 4-3 win.

Cal will have a chance to try and snatch the elusive fruit again when it faces Stanford (18-2, 5-1) in a conference match Saturday at Avery Aquatics Center.

The Bears will also host No. 19 UC Davis (14-10) Sunday at Spieker Aquatics Complex.

"This is a good opportunity to put ourselves in a good position for the NCAA," Cal coach Kirk Everist said.

The Cardinal is definitely a measure of what it takes to survive in the water polo world, with national team members Tony Azevedo and Peter Hutnut leading the charge.

Cal's performance will be an indicator of its strength and ability to compete for the actual NCAA bid in the MPSF tournament, which will include likely candidate Stanford.

The Bears and the Cardinal last duked it out during the Southern California Tournament's semifinal round. Cal fell to Stanford 8-7, and finished third in the tournament.

The Bears know they will have to go through the Cardinal to reach a MPSF title and the NCAA Tournament.

"We know we're going to have to pull some upsets," Greg Panawek said.

They will need to concentrate on playing solid defense and transitioning to fast counterattacks, Everist said.

Stanford defeated No. 2 UCLA 12-10 in overtime this past weekend. the first time the Cardinal was sent to overtime this season.

Although the Bears are focused on Saturday's match against their rival, they are not forgetting about the Aggies.

UC Davis is looking to rebound from subpar performances of the past weekend. At the Air Force Tournament, the Aggies split their matches 2-2, losing to Cal Baptist and Air Force but defeating UC Santa Cruz and George Washington.

"UC Davis is an up-and-coming team," Everist said. "It will be nice to play someone outside of our league."


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