Bears Come In Confident After Banner 2010 Season

Photo: Emily Csikos enters 2011 as one of the country's most dangerous offensive players. The junior from Calgary, Alberta has poured in 134 goals over just two seasons for the Bears.
Kellen Freeman/Staff
Emily Csikos enters 2011 as one of the country's most dangerous offensive players. The junior from Calgary, Alberta has poured in 134 goals over just two seasons for the Bears.

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Some people would say that a team that finished third in the NCAA Tournament can't aim any higher. Those people probably haven't heard of first, or even second place.

But it's still the question on everyone's mind: will the third-ranked Cal women's water polo team three-peat? That is to say, will the Bears repeat a No. 3 finish at the NCAA Tournament? Perhaps, but coming off one of their best seasons to date, it looks as though the team is still after bigger game.

Last year, the squad qualified for the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history. They brought home the bronze medal, falling to top-seed Stanford, and defeating Loyola Marymount to conclude the year with a 26-9 record.

So as the Bears (3-0) look at the first-place finish that eluded them, the impressive third-place they already brought home and the silver lining that lies between the two, they may ask themselves how to improve from a record-setting year.

"The kids that played last year, the juniors, the sophomores, all of those girls, they have a pretty good idea of what it takes to be successful," coach Richard Corso said, "And that's transferring to the younger girls as well."

As the team continues moving forward, they will look to the leadership of team captains Emily Csikos and Stephanie Peckham.

Csikos, a 2010 first-team All-American, led the Bears last year with 69 goals in 35 matches. She was third in the MPSF with 1.97 goals per game, scoring seven during the conference tournament. Coming off a summer when she led her native Canada to the finals of the FINA World Championships, Csikos was Cal's top scorer in 16 matches.

Peckham is a two-time honorable mention All-American in the cage, setting a school-record with 311 saves in 2010; 49 were recorded in the postseason. Her 616 saves in two seasons rank third on the school's all-time career list.

Alongside the team's veterans, there are a number of freshmen and even sophomores that are looking to prove themselves - while looking back at last season for inspiration.

"Even with the girls that weren't here last year, they're coming in with a lot of confidence because of last year's results," Corso said. "So you take that young group of players that are coming in, they've got a lot of energy, a lot of enthusiasm.

"They're still learning the game, and trying to become students of the game, but they're coming in real confident."

A key player to watch for this season is sophomore Dana Ochsner. As a freshman, Ochsner was third on the team with 40 goals and was named to the MPSF All-Freshman Team. She has already scored eight goals in three games this season.

Another sophomore with a breakout performance this season is Remington Price, leading the team with nine goals in three games - a stunning contrast to her freshman season in which she scored only once in four games.

A top newcomer for the squad is freshman Kelly Mendoza, who was a three-time All-American as well as Monte Vista High School's all-time leading scorer with 330 career goals. Mendoza has come out of the gate swimming, scoring six times thus far.

Cal will compete in the Spartan Invitational this weekend in San Jose, Calif., and the Stanford Invitational the following weekend. With the bulk of water polo season fast approaching, these early matches will be an indication of any future success.


Samuel Farahmand covers women's water polo. Contact him at [email protected]

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