Men's Polo Ensures Cal Doesn't Leave Los Angeles Without Win

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The No. 2 Cal water polo team (12-2, 2-0 MPSF) added a coveted win against No. 1 USC (15-2, 1-2 MPSF) to the season's growing collection on Saturday.

The 12-9 triumph over the Trojans on their home turf of McDonald's Swim Stadium marks the most recent powerhouse to fall to the Bears. Cal is now 1-1 against USC, 2-0 against Stanford and defeated UCLA last week to become 1-0 against it.

"Obviously having a win back-to-back against UCLA and USC is big for us," coach Kirk Everist said. "We have a lot of work cut out for us, but it puts us in a good position moving into the rest of our conference season."

While Cal's game against the Trojans earlier this season in the NorCal tournament was a story of playing catch-up to get back in the game, the situation this weekend was a 180-degree turnaround. On Sept. 19, the Bears were down 10-5, logged a 5-0 run to tie the game at 10 a piece and just fell short with a final score of 12-11. On Saturday, Cal instead opened the match with a 5-0 run before even letting USC on the scoreboard.

The Bears' relentless defense limited the Trojans to two goals heading into halftime compared with Cal's eight.

"I think Justin (Parsons) had a really solid game in the goal cage, which we needed, and was helped by team defense," Everist said.

Parsons, a sophomore, has been one of the keys to the Bears' recent success, tallying 10 saves this weekend and 13 last weekend against UCLA. He has been logging heavy minutes in the absence of Wil Toppen, who is out to injury but should return soon.

Cal's stifling defense also helped to present opportunities on the offensive end.

"I think we were really patient with the ball, got a lot of opportunities at the two meter, drew a couple ejections, Zach (White) was doing a good job of forcing the zone, we were able to get some outside shots, capitalize on our six on five early, and get a couple steals and counterattacks," Everist said. "So a lot of (the offense) came from our defense, getting turnovers and putting away good opportunities."

Junior Ivan Rackov leads Cal, as well as the MPSF as a whole, with 39 goals in 13 matches. He met his average yet again against USC, hammering home three goals.

"He's a real key player, he's able to see a couple steps ahead both offensively and defensively which allows him to take advantage of opportunities," Everist said. "He plays the game like he's playing chess; he sees the openings really well."

The supporting Bears cast rose to the occasion, threatening the Trojans from all sides so that they weren't able to collapse their defense in one area.

"We had some contributions from deeper people, Zach Greenwood had two and Collin Smith had a big goal for us," Everist said. "It's nice to get some production offensively out of some other people, having different people scoring makes us harder to defend when we have deep guys step up."


Byron Atashian covers men's water polo. Contact him at [email protected]

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