Loss Doesn't Blemish Break

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After a month of chugging along, the Victory Express with the Cal women's water polo team on board finally came to a screeching halt Friday.

On climbed the Jesse James of water polo, No. 3 UCLA, robbing the Bears of their 15-game winning streak.

But even the Bruins' victory couldn't spoil Cal's Spring Break joyride. Up against five of the best teams in the nation, the Bears walked away with four hard-fought victories.

"We played well," Cal coach Peter Asch said. "We had five tough games in eight days, and came out with four wins and one loss. We beat the No. 2 team and the No. 4 team. Am I displeased? No."

And showing the composure of a top-ranked team, the Bears climbed right back on board with a win only a day after UCLA squeaked by them with a 7-6 victory. Cal (19-3, 8-1 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) came back to hand UC Santa Barbara a 9-7 loss Saturday at Campus Pool in Santa Barbara, Calif., ruining the Gauchos' attempts to avenge an earlier loss.

Although they lost to the Bears by a five-goal margin back in February, the No. 9 Gauchos managed to keep the score close. UCSB never trailed Cal by more than two goals, and, for a while, seemed on track for an upset.

After falling behind to the Bears, 6-4, at the half, the Gauchos (8-14, 2-7) powered back with a three-goal third, taking a 7-6 lead. But with the sinking sensation of deja vu slowly creeping over them, the Bears refused to walk away a second day with a loss by the same score.

Cal countered with two goals by two-meter player Julia Cesnik and driver Julie Arnold in the third period. Driver Beth Irwin added another tally in the fourth, and goalie Fana Fuqua managed to hold off UCSB the rest of the way to seal the victory for the Bears.

In doing so, the team completed a comeback that they failed to finish against the Bruins at UCLA's Sunset Canyon Recreation Center.

The Bruins (20-3, 8-1) stormed out of the gates early on first-period goals by senior Erin Golaboski and freshman playmaker Jessica Lopez.

Cal scored three times in the second quarter and UCLA scored once to deadlock the score at three heading into the half. But only 30 seconds into the third period, Lopez rifled a shot past Fuqua that ultimately made the difference.

Both teams had three goals in the third. Each time the Bruins scored, the Bears countered with a goal of their own, but Cal could not overcome the deficit.

In addition to Lopez, who notched four goals for the Bruins, UCLA goalie Jaime Hipp played a key role in knocking off the Bears. Hipp turned in a season-high 11 saves to preserve the one-goal victory.

Despite the loss, Asch was pleased with his players' comeback attempt.

"We got down by a couple goals twice, and each time the team came back," Asch said. "It shows how competitive our players are."

The competitiveness shone through in the Bears' three games earlier last week.

Tied at two at the half in Wednesday's match-up against No. 7 Hawaii at Spieker Pool, the Bears scored eight times in the second half and held Hawaii to two goals to put away the match with a final score of 10-4.

No. 2 Stanford didn't fare much better against Cal last Sunday at deGuerre Pool. The Bears took an early two-goal lead that the Cardinal was unable to surmount. Fuqua turned in a 14-save performance to hold Stanford to only three goals, allowing Cal to notch a 6-3 victory.

The matchup against No. 4 USC was much closer - the Bears and Trojans had to go into an extra period after the score was locked at 5-5 to end regulation. The Bears finally outscored the Trojans, 2-1, in overtime to clinch the victory at Spieker Pool.


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