Bears Going for First MPSF Win Over Card This Season

Photo: Senior Spencer Warden will be playing in his final Big Splash this Saturday. Warden has 37 goals and 22 assists. He also leads the team with 55 steals on the defensive front.
Victoria Chow/File
Senior Spencer Warden will be playing in his final Big Splash this Saturday. Warden has 37 goals and 22 assists. He also leads the team with 55 steals on the defensive front.

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The first time Zach White played the Stanford men's water polo team this season in September's NorCal Invitational, he was knocked out of the game with a concussion.

Three weeks after that, White lit up the Cardinal for four goals at the SoCal Invite, pulling the Bears to a 10-8 victory and its current No. 2 ranking. They responded by giving him a second concussion.

At 2 p.m. tomorrow, Cal (20-4, 6-1 in the MPSF) will again meet its cross-bay rivals-this time in the annual Big Splash at third-ranked Stanford's Avery Aquatic Complex.

White has all the motivation he needs.

"This is one of those games that you look forward to," he said. "I'm going to go out there with the instinct that, you know what, they're probably going be punching me again, but I don't give a crap because I want this more than them. I'm on a mission, personally."

That mission is, of course, to win Cal's first Big Splash since 2004-to clinch the second seed for next weekend's MPSF Championships, to strengthen a potential at-large bid for NCAAs. It's a match-up that brings a total of 23 national titles together, with the Steve Heaston Trophy to the winner.

The Bears' recent wins over Stanford have all come in tournament pairings. Not a single player on this year's roster knows what it feels like to defeat the Card in a conference game, before stands packed to the brim with fans decked in red and white, blue and gold.

"It's that pride thing," White said. "It's that battle of the Bay. It's, 'Who's the best NorCal team?'"

To be that team, Cal will have to contain Cardinal seniors Drac and Janson Wigo. The twins are currently ranked as the first- and fourth-leading scorers in the MPSF, and their chemistry is the heart of the Stanford offense. In their last win over the Cardinal, the Bears limited the pair to a goal each.

On the opposite end, Cal will need a hot start against All-American goalkeeper Jimmie Sandman. The Bears fell behind to start all four losses this season, and jumped ahead early in both its wins against top-four teams.

Despite all the festivities, however, Cal still needs to keep a level head.

"The team that's going to win that game is going to be the most relaxed," senior co-captain Spender Warden said. "We're going to come with tremendous energy but we can't get ahead of ourselves, we can't rush things."

Added coach Kirk Everist: "Both teams would, I think in a heartbeat, give up this game to go to NCAAs and have a chance to win a championship, to be in that final game."


Contact Jack Wang at [email protected]

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