Cal hosts SDSU as season winds down

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Last Saturday's win at Hawaii was an impressive one by the Cal women's water polo team: the Bears never trailed, fought off rallies and turned away a pair of fourth quarter penalty shots to clinch a close game.

The best part?

"There wasn't one person cheering for us," coach Rich Corso quipped.

That will change, as the team comes off two important conference road victories to conclude its regular season inside the friendly confines of Spieker Aquatics Complex.

The marquee game will be next weekend's Big Splash, a potential 1-2 match-up to decide the MPSF's top overall tournament seed - but for second-ranked Cal (20-3, 5-0 in the MPSF), there's still the matter of Saturday's 1 p.m. date with No. 11 San Diego State.

"We don't even talk about Stanford," Corso said. "We got San Diego State to play. And I don't even talk about the whole game with (the Aztecs). We're talking about the first quarter, and one possession at a time.

"The philosophy is tie or win each period. Just take our time."

With the top-ranked Cardinal looming, it may be easy to overlook SDSU (19-10, 1-4), a team that the Bears dominated on the road last year. Cal was never tested at Aztec Aquaplex, jumping out 4-0 in the opening period and leading 8-1 after three quarters.

This spring, the Aztecs have failed to make much of a splash. They were manhandled at Hawaii, 17-7, lost to 17th-ranked Indiana at home and just edged Arizona State last week to climb out of the conference cellar.

Still, San Diego State has managed to play competitively against the Los Angeles powerhouses. And the Aztecs' best weapon is a unique offensive style that has helped the team score the third-most goals (11.38 per game) in the MPSF. Many of Cal's younger players will be facing the team for the first time.

"They like to post everybody up," Corso said of SDSU's attack. "They have a primary set but everybody on their team can go to set. Everybody's going to go inside, like a power forward or a center. At times, if you don't play with great awareness that's hard to defend."

Players will need to choose carefully between dropping back against shooters or leaving the post more open, meaning that discipline and defensive communication will be key for the Bears.

"You can't sit and rest," sophomore Dana Ochsner said. "It's about being aware of your person and who is around you. It's going to be hard because in the first quarter ... we need to try and feel them out, but you can't just sit back and relax."

On the other end of the pool, Cal must solve ace goalkeeper Kelly Campoli, the rock in an otherwise inconsistent Aztecs' defense. Now SDSU's all-time saves leader, she ranks just behind the Bears' Stephanie Peckham for most stops per game in the conference.


Contact Ed Yevelev at [email protected]

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