Cal Has Pieces for Success

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In order for a team to be successful and be able to call themselves champions of their respective sport, all of the pieces must be present. The necessities - talent, desire, discipline, work ethic, heart, and experience.

For the Cal women's water polo team, the last in that list may be the most important.

It is going to be tough for the Bears to top last season's performance, in which they finished 28-7 overall while capturing the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation title with a 7-2 record and finishing fourth at the NCAA championships.

But Cal could be up to the challenge. The Bears enter the season with a squad that remains virtually intact from last year. This could translate into an experienced team that has spent a lot of time together both in and out of the water.

"Right now we're ahead of schedule," goalie and team captain Fana Fuqua said. "The team has gelled together and that should translate into success."

The first test of the season for Cal comes this weekend, when they travel south to compete in the UC San Diego Invitational. The Bears are seeded fourth and will face seventh seed UC Davis in their opener.

"We've been working really hard and we look forward to a great year," said Fuqua. "Everyone is going to play well."

Cal could better that finish, given the experience and depth it features. Under the direction of coach Peter Asch, the squad returns a number of key players from last year's unit. Returning first team All-America driver Colette Glinkowski paced the Bears with 64 goals last season, while Fuqua had a 2.65 goals-against average.

Other notable returnees include honorable mention All-American Beth Irwin, Cal's third leading scorer with 29 goals, and driver Brenna Fleener. Fleener is coming off a freshman season in which she made an explosive impact with 24 goals.

"We're pretty much the same team (and) we'll still grow as we play, but I'm positive we'll be competitive," sophomore driver Brigitte Donner said.

One obstacle the Bears will need to overcome is league rival Stanford. The Cardinal took three of five from Cal last season, including an NCAA semifinals victory that knocked the Bears out of the tourney and sent them home for the year.

"The other teams look good, they haven't lost that many players," Fuqua said. "But they are definitely beatable."


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