Best Teams in Nation Square Off at Cal in NorCal Invitational

Photo: Junior college transfer Matt Golden is already making an impact with the Bears. Golden has scored three goals this season.
Victoria Chow/File
Junior college transfer Matt Golden is already making an impact with the Bears. Golden has scored three goals this season.

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After practically snoozing through its first two victories, the No. 1 Cal men's water polo team finally has a chance to show its stuff this weekend at the NorCal Invitational.

The two-day tournament will be played at Spieker Complex and nearby Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, Calif., features 16 teams, all but one of which were ranked in last week's top 20 poll.

The Bears' main MPSF adversaries, UCLA, Stanford and USC, will also be present.

Cal kicks off the first game at Spieker Complex against unranked Pomona-Pitzer at 8 a.m., on Saturday.

The NorCal tournament will serve an important purpose: testing the youth and depth of Cal's squad.

The upperclassman first string is tried and true, but the freshman additions have yet to prove their worth against any formidable opponents.

Four freshmen have put themselves on the scoreboard for Cal. Of the 28 total team goals, they account for eight, with transfer Matt Golden leading the way with three.

True freshman Giacomo Cupido notched five steals, one goal and one assist in just one of those games.

"The freshman class bring a lot of energy which is always great when you have an established core group," senior co-captain Brian Dudley said. "They bring a dynamic to the team that we've been missing in the past."

The fact remains, however, that these performances came against Santa Clara and UC Davis. The way the Bears would dominate these teams could be foretold by the size advantage, apparent during the national anthem even before the game started.

With the Bears most likely playing four games, the younger squad may prove instrumental in keeping the first string fresh for the more challenging games.

If the veterans get early advantages, they would be able to rest while the freshmen hold down the fort the rest of the game.

The tournament is divided into four brackets of four teams, with one MPSF powerhouse in each bracket. Each team plays two games, then the undefeated team from each bracket advances to the semifinals. Those teams play an additional two games to duke it out for first, second, and third place titles.

The Sagehens are 2-3, with one of their losses coming against Davis by a score of 10-3. As a frame of reference, the Bears tore through the Aggies 14-4, so they shouldn't have any trouble against Pomona.

The time of the Bears' subsequent matches depend on the outcome of the previous ones.

Last year, Cal lost to Stanford by one goal in the semifinals and lost again to USC by two goals in the match for third place.


Contact Byron Atashian at [email protected]

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