Bears Cruise to 10th Straight Win With Three Weekend Victories

Photo: Cal senior Brian Dudley attempts to shoot over UCSB goalkeeper Fraser Bunn. The No. 1 Bears are looking to win their third title in five years.
Victoria Chow/Staff
Cal senior Brian Dudley attempts to shoot over UCSB goalkeeper Fraser Bunn. The No. 1 Bears are looking to win their third title in five years.

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The No. 1 Cal men's water polo team extended its winning streak to 10 this weekend with home wins on Sunday against Long Beach, Saturday against UCSB and Thursday against Loyola Marymount.

The scores were 14-7, 12-5 and 11-2, respectively.

All games followed a similar pattern of being close early before the Bears (18-2, 6-0 MPSF) awoke from their slumber and tore open the lead. The closest points of the games came at the end of the first quarter at 5-4 against the No. 8 49ers, 4-3 midway through the second against the Gauchos and actually trailing 1-2 early in the second before scoring the next 10 against the No. 9 Lions (13-8).

This was all in wake of junior Cory Nasoff's concussion on Thursday that kept him out of all three games, but shouldn't keep him out longer. He contributes greatly to team speed and defense.

"Obviously, (not having Nasoff) is a problem for us down the line, but it's a good experience to get more playing time to (younger) guys like Collin Smith, Matt Golden and Hunter Gettelfinger."

With the help of the able youth filling in for Nasoff and steady performances from Cal's most consistent contributors, the Bears held the 49ers (7-12, 0-6) at bay after the first quarter, only allowing one goal per quarter after that.

Junior Ivan Rackov had four goals and five assists, having a hand in nine of the Bears' 14 scores. He also had four steals and four ejections.

"Not too atypical. He's a threat out shooting, but he's also a real threat making those passes that turn into goals," coach Kirk Everist said. "When he's taken away, other guys are stepping up, like Zach White, Collin Smith and Charlie Steffens."

"That's important, it keeps people honest," he adds.

The threats posed by White's three goals and the two goals each from Luka Saponjic, Steffens and Smith helped spread the defense.

The Bears converted on five of their nine drawn ejections, including a five-meter penalty shot. Long Beach, on the other hand, only capitalized on two out of their six power plays.

"Defensively, we had a few breakdowns in the first half but the guys adjusted well," Everist said. "We focused a little bit more on pressuring the ball and dropping off of one guy instead of multiple and that solidified (our defense)."

Two of the 49ers seven goals were at the buzzer as a result of Cal's clock mismanagement, but defense tightened up.

A similar story unfolded in Saturday's game against UCSB (10-7, 1-3) when the Bears went on a 4-0 run after the score being 7-4 to all but seal the game.

Cal prevented the leading Gaucho scorer, Milos Golic at second in the MPSF, from putting any up on the scoreboard for his squad.

"We wanted to focus on not over-correcting our defense to deal with (their offensive threats)," Everist said.


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

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