Bears Breeze Through Weekend in Southern California

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Cal 13
Long Beach State 7

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This past weekend, the Cal men's water polo took a long bus ride south for a pair of conference games against No. 9 UC Santa Barbara and No. 8 Long Beach State.

After defeating both beach-side opponents, however, the trip to Southern California ended up more closely resembling an early vacation for the second-ranked Bears.

Cal (18-4, 5-1 in the MPSF) has now won 10 of its past 11 games-its lone loss coming against top-ranked USC.

Yesterday, the Bears built an early lead against the 49ers in a 13-7 win, going up 8-4 in the first half and scoring four goals in each of the first three quarters. Sophomore Ivan Rackov, the team's leading scorer this season with 44 goals, found the cage a game-high four times, including three in the third quarter.

Only three regular starters -- Rackov and senior co-captains Spencer Warden and Mike Sample -- were in at the opening whistle at 49er Campus Pool, as the team took the opportunity to give its bench ample playing time.

"We came out strong and adjusted a little bit," coach Kirk Everist said. "Needing a lot of energy for the game, we kind of split our team into two groups instead of our normal starting line-up."

The change-up was effective as eight different players put away goals against Long Beach State (8-11, 1-6), displaying the steadiness and depth that Cal had been working on since the beginning of the season. The Bears' attack included a strong 6-on-5 offense, which converted eight of its 11 man-up opportunities.

"The guys ... came out and scored the first couple of goals, established the tone, and kind of gave us consistent energy throughout the whole game," Everist said. "Everybody played against Long Beach, so it was a good team effort for sure."

Time was also split in the cage, as true freshman Justin Parsons spelled starting goalkeeper Wil Toppen in the final quarter. Parsons added three saves to the eight tallied up by Toppen.

A day earlier, the team displayed similar balance at the Gauchos' (12-11, 1-4) always-hostile Campus Pool.

"The crowd is ... sitting right on top of the benches," Everist said. "College kids being college kids, they've done their homework and they know your names and they know where you're from and they know your background. They're trying to get into your head and I just thought our guys handled it really well."

With all seven goals coming from seven different players, Cal posted a 7-4 win in a game that wasn't as close as the score would indicate. The Bears allowed only three goals until the final two seconds, and were able to score more in the unorthodox shallow end -- where taller defenders are able to stand -- than they did in standard depth.

"If you were a freshman or a sophomore, which is the bulk of our team, they haven't been down there yet," Everist said. "It was a good experience for them to go through that and I thought they handled it really well."


Contact Jack Wang at [email protected]

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