Rest Is at a Premium As Cal Faces Another Top-Five Foe

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With about a half hour left in Tuesday's practice, Spencer Warden and Luka Saponjic slowly lapped the width of the pool, climbing out as the rest of the Cal men's water polo team continued running drills.

Coming off a second-place finish in the SoCal Invitational, the No. 2 Bears needed to squeeze in as much rest as they could in the short week before tonight's 7 p.m. matchup against No. 4 UCLA (12-4, 0-1 in the MPSF).

"That's kind of what we've got right now with some of the guys and with their injuries, kind of NFL veteran workouts here," coach Kirk Everist said. "Some guys are in more later in the week than they are earlier in the week."

In addition to battling soreness and fatigue, Cal may head into Los Angeles with a shorthanded roster -- something with which it is already familiar.

Both junior Zach White and sophomore Cory Nasoff sat out the tournament championship with concussions, watching on the bench as the Bears lost 7-6 loss to now-No. 1 USC. Although White has returned to the lineup, Nasoff is questionable for tonight's game.

"He's one of those kids that can play a lot of minutes and not be too taxed because he's such a good swimmer," Everist said. "The game in between frontcourts is easy for him because he's a natural. He's a critical one as far as how our minutes get laid out."

As both teams look for their first conference wins, Cal (11-4, 0-1) will try to build on the success it saw last weekend at UC Irvine. Through the tournament, the Bears' tendency of falling into scoring droughts disappeared, their defense feeding into a more potent offense that often gave them early leads.

"Getting off to a fast start has really helped us," center defender Brian Dudley said. "We tend to lose a little bit of focus if we don't come out blazing. We kept playing catch-up, and I think we got comfortable playing catch-up against some of the teams."

The performance was highlighted by White's four-goal outburst in a semifinal win against then-undefeated Stanford. The center was recognized as the MPSF Co-Player of the Week, sharing the honor with the Trojans' Justin Rappel.

But while the game will certainly be just as big as Cal's last two, the team is trying to treat it as it would any other. With the roster still relatively young, consistency will be a crucial component throughout the season in order to avoid any letdowns.

"One of the things we talked about over the weekend is not making games bigger than they are," Everist said. "You don't want to get guys that are hyping themselves so much for one game and then kind of hit those peaks and valleys ... we're just going out and playing our game and not really worrying about what's on the other guy's cap."

Cal will return home to face No. 16 Santa Clara on Sunday at 12 p.m.


Contact Jack Wang at [email protected]

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