Mr. Sandman Creates Only A Nightmare In Cal's Loss

Stanford's Goalkeeper Jimmie Sandman Holds Bears to Just Two Goals In Game's Second Half

Photo: Spencer Warden had two goals for the Bears in their 8-6 loss in the annual Big Splash. The senior captain has been the leading scorer for Cal in its last two games with eight total.
Anna Hiatt/Staff
Spencer Warden had two goals for the Bears in their 8-6 loss in the annual Big Splash. The senior captain has been the leading scorer for Cal in its last two games with eight total.

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STANFORD-Ivan Rackov was about to score the first goal of the Big Splash.

The Cal men's water polo team had drawn a five-meter penalty shot just 39 seconds into the game, and its leading scorer lined up for what looked to be an easy opportunity to take an early lead.

But when the sophomore launched a shot at the lower corner of the cage, All-American goalkeeper Jimmie Sandman stretched out his arm, robbing the No. 2 Bears and keeping the game scoreless.

And it was Sandman who would make 12 more blocks at Avery Aquatic Center on Saturday, limiting Cal (20-5, 6-2 in the MPSF) to just two goals in the second half-a near-impenetrable wall for the Cardinal in an 8-6 win, one that clinched its second seed for this weekend's MPSF Championships.

"We weren't very creative or thoughtful in our shots and that made it real easy on a very good goalie," coach Kirk Everist said. "We've got to be a little more thoughtful and think our shots through. I think that was the difference in the second half. We just weren't able to find the holes in their defense, and more especially in their goalie."

Cal had looked to be in control before the halftime buzzer sounded. After blanking Stanford (20-2, 7-1) in the first quarter, the Bears reeled off three goals in the second to pull away to a 4-2 lead. With an advantage that mirrored the one it held when it defeated the Cardinal, 10-8, back in October's SoCal Invite, all signs pointed to another Cal victory.

But the Cardinal scored six of the game's eight goals from that point on, including a five-meter penalty that senior Drac Wigo converted to give Stanford the lead for good.

"We started playing really soft on defense," junior Zach White said. "Guys were able to slide by us, take quick shots for goals, guys were passing the ball easier to set, getting kickouts. We kind of got lazy, basically, on defense because it was going so well. It cost us. We just basically fell asleep."

It was Stanford's fifth consecutive win in the Big Splash, giving them the Steve Heaston Trophy-named after the late Cal coach-yet again. The strong showing also strengthened the Cardinal's resume for the NCAAs. If they can't secure an automatic berth with an MPSF championship, they could still get in with an at-large bid.

The Bears, however, are also targeting that same bid, and a potential semifinal matchup next weekend will likely determine the team that earns a shot a national championship. With the stakes now higher than ever, mistakes will be even more costly in the postseason.

"A concern in a big game is how guys manage their emotions; guys are a little too high, too amped up and then they rush it a little bit," Everist said. "Those are things that come with experience, and this is another game that this young group has played. A big game, big crowd, and it'll help them down the line."


Contact Jack Wang at [email protected]

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