Aggies Jump Into Shark Pit For No. 3 Cal's Home Opener

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After a trip to Maryland, the Cal men's water polo team returns to Spieker Aquatics Complex today at 4 p.m. to meet its first in-state challenge, No. 17 UC Davis.

Similar to the No. 3 Bears, the Aggies' roster is loaded with youth, returning only three seniors to Cal's two.

The difference, of course, is that Cal is a powerhouse that has a 200-48 record at home since 1982.

While the gap in the rankings between the two teams may not point towards a competitive match -- Aggies coach Steve Doten, a former Cal player, said he was throwing his freshmen "in with the sharks" -- UC Davis will bring certain tactics that Cal has yet to see this season.

"They've got pretty decent team speed. I think they'll bring a degree of athleticism that we didn't see over the weekend," Everist said. "Davis will have probably a bigger depth, a pool of players that will give us a challenge, (make us) step up our game."

On the offensive side of the ball, the Bears (4-0) will have a chance to continue working on recognizing different schemes and reacting quickly and consistently in the frontcourt.

"You're going to have 30-plus possessions where you don't score a goal. But how did you manage that possession?" Everist said. "Did you control the ball? Did you use the clock ... or did you go down and 10 seconds into the possession just turn it over?"

Against UC Davis, Cal will also be able to focus on dealing with a different type of defense than what it often saw over the past weekend at the Navy Open, where smaller, faster teams ran fluid, movement-oriented attacks.

"They're not going to be running around going crazy everywhere," Everist said. "They'll set up a more normal, more standard set offense, which most of our defenses are predicated against attacking."

With junior Brian Dudley still out with a hand injury, the center defender position is still being filled by a rotation of less experienced players, such as sophomore Zach Greenwood. Senior co-captain Mike Sample may also spend time defending the two-meter to spell the rotation.

"Our two-meter defenders are young and learning the position," Everist said. "They're strong and they're fast, but when they're tired, they struggled a little bit at times. The track record's shown them to be successful when they're fresh."

Another young player in Cory Nasoff will continue building what seems to be the beginning of a strong sophomore season, having been honored as MPSF Player of the Week along with USC sophomore Peter Kurzeka after posting up 11 goals and seven assists in Annapolis last weekend.

"He was always a long and lanky kid, but now he's big. He's put on 20 pounds or so of muscle," Everist said. "I see him as one of those guys that can step into a role of being a major impact in our conference this year which is great for a kid that's got three years of eligibility left."

With just over a week left before the NorCal Invitational, in which the Bears will be matched against top competition for the first time, Everist and the team have only a short time to knock out any kinks left.

"We're excited to get into the meat of the season," he said.


Contact Jack Wang at [email protected]

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