Bears continue torrid MPSF play with victory over Rainbow Wahine

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Stephanie Peckham couldn't deny it.

After a 7-6 road victory over No. 4 Hawaii on Saturday, the Cal women's water polo team now controls its own destiny in the rugged MPSF with two league games remaining - a level of success that the Bears' junior goalie didn't see coming this season.

"I would like to say yes," Peckham said. "But I think people had their doubts, and thought we'd be in the middle of the pack. I think this win proves we're a solid contender."

The manner in which the Bears won was just as convincing.

Driver Libby McLaren dubbed the matchup in Honolulu a "business trip," and Cal (20-3, 5-0 in the MPSF) certainly earned its best ever conference start in business-like fashion. The Bears never trailed in the contest, establishing an early lead and staving off rallies by the Rainbow Wahine (13-6, 3-2) to snap a three-game losing streak at Duke Kahanamoku Aquatics Complex.

"We jumped out on them early, and that was the difference," said Peckham, who turned away 10 shots on the afternoon.  "I don't think they were expecting that. I don't think they thought we'd be prepared."

Cal didn't take too long to assert itself.

The game was barely two minutes old before the Bears held a 2-0 advantage, as Emily Csikos and leading scorer Breda Vosters each buried shots past Hawaii keeper Serena Bredin.

The Rainbow Wahine fought back in the second quarter, using scores from Carmen and Monika Eggens, and Amarens Genee to force a 3-3 halftime deadlock. But though the home team would remain within striking distance, Cal had an answer for every surge.

With the Bears shutting down center Leonie Van Der Molen, Hawaii freshman Kelly McKee stepped up to score a game-high three goals - the first of which tied the match again at 4-4 in the third period.

Cal responded with back-to-back scores from its own first-year players. Freshman driver Ashley Young and center Katie Monton both found the net with under two minutes left in the quarter to help the Bears regain control.

McKee added a pair of penalty shots in the final period, but the Rainbow Wahine got no closer than a goal the rest of the way.

"Our coaches have been stressing not letting them score after we got a goal," Vosters said. "We really shut them down when we needed to."

The Bears now return home to Spieker Aquatics Complex for their final two conference tilts - the last of which, against rival Stanford, could determine the regular season MPSF crown.

"Everyone's pretty stoked right now," Peckham said. "Everyone's proud of what we've done."


Ed Yevelev covers women's water polo.

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