Bears win program's first ever MPSF title

Photo: Breda Vosters scored seven times during the three-day MPSF tournament in San Jose, Calif. The sophomore driver poured in five goals to help the Bears defeat San Jose State and clinch a spot in Sunday's conference title match.
Eugene W. Lau/File
Breda Vosters scored seven times during the three-day MPSF tournament in San Jose, Calif. The sophomore driver poured in five goals to help the Bears defeat San Jose State and clinch a spot in Sunday's conference title match.

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By the last day of this weekend's MPSF Tournament, Cal was the only top-three team contending for a title.

And by Sunday evening, the No. 2 Bears were alone at the top - capturing their first ever conference championship after defeating UCLA, 7-6, in the final.

The weekend at San Jose State Aquatics Center was marked by a pair of shocking upsets, with the host Spartans stunning No. 3 Hawaii on Friday and top-ranked Stanford falling to the Bruins a day later - but Cal by no means coasted on its way to the league crown and an automatic NCAA berth.

"Our conference is the toughest in the country, maybe even in the world," goalie Stephanie Peckham said. "The upsets, everyone was surprised, but it just goes to show you that anyone can beat anyone on a given day. It was a crazy weekend, that's for sure."

Indeed, even with a pair of elite squads losing, Peckham and company were tested in every game of their three-day run. The Bears needed a fourth-quarter goal from Breda Vosters to escape, 7-6, against seventh seed San Diego State in the tournament opener. A monster five-goal effort by Vosters helped Cal pull away from the surprising Spartans in a 13-10 victory on Saturday.

And after jumping out to an early 3-0 in the championship game, Richard Corso's club turned in a stellar defensive effort to hold off the five-time champion Bruins after halftime. UCLA stormed back and pulled to within a goal twice in the second half, but never managed to tie or take the lead.

"Everyone was just really excited, everyone played with a lot of energy, and everyone was really positive with one another," Peckham said.

"Especially in the UCLA game, our defense was stellar. Everyone was playing hard, everyone was on the same page, and that really translated over to the scoreboard. I'm just really proud of everyone ... it was really a team effort from top to bottom."

Peckham's assessment was certainly apt. Though Vosters lit up the scoreboard with seven weekend goals, Cal received valuable contributions throughout the roster. Elizabeth McLaren and Emily Csikos both scored in every tournament game, as did freshman Ashley Young.

Even the team's reserves stepped up. Sophomore driver Remington Price fired in a crucial goal against UCLA that gave the Bears a 4-2 halftime lead, and Kirsten Mase struck twice in the San Jose State game - a performance that Peckham called "absolutely out of her mind."

Yet, even with the MPSF crown in hand, the team is still looking forward.

"The biggest tournament is yet to come," Peckham said. "We're all just being positive and hoping we can keep it up and hopefully come back to Berkeley from Michigan with another trophy."


Ed Yevelev covers women's water polo. Contact him at [email protected]

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