Cal Comes From Five Down to Defeat Card in OT

The Bears Advance to the MPSF Championship Match Where They Will Face UCLA

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For most of the season, the No. 3 Cal men's water polo team couldn't finish comebacks after falling behind in big games.

With its season on the line on Saturday against No. 2 Stanford, it picked a good time to do so.

Staring a 7-2 deficit at the intermission, the Bears (22-5, 6-2 in the MPSF) scored eight second-half goals at McDonald's Swim Stadium in Los Angeles, forcing their way to a 12-11 overtime win in the MPSF Championship semifinals.

After Ivan Rackov logged a hat trick to tie the game in the extra periods, Luka Saponjic put away his game-high fourth goal with four seconds left in the second overtime to give Cal its second win over the Cardinal (21-3, 7-1) out of four match-ups this season.

"I think the difference was heart," senior co-captain Spencer Warden said. "We went down by five goals, came back ... and the only way you do that is with heart. Every single person on the team contributed."

The Bears' six scorers also overcame Stanford's All-American goalkeeper Jimmie Sandman, who made a season-high 17 blocks.

Cal advances to face UCLA (21-6, 5-3) in the tournament championship at 3 p.m. on Sunday, the winner of which earns an automatic berth in the NCAA Championships next weekend in Princeton, N.J. The No. 4 Bruins upset top-ranked USC in the semifinals, giving the Trojans (23-2, 8-0) both their losses this season and their first home loss since 2004.

Contact Jack Wang at [email protected]

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