Cal Still Indy-Bound Even With OT Loss

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For a squad that has scorched team after team all season long with an endless stream of goals, the Bears offense appeared to be in hibernation in Saturday's National Qualifier title match.

While the Cal women's water polo team was doing everything it could offensively, it didn't seem like it would be able to snap out of its deep slumber. Shots rang off posts, flew wide of the net and met head-on with the rock-solid Stanford goalie.

With time ticking off the clock and the No. 1 Cardinal just three minutes from doing the unthinkable - shutting out the Bears - Cal woke up just in time to send the game into overtime with two late goals.

Bears driver Brenna Fleener jumpstarted the offensive effort for Cal, rifling a shot past Cardinal goalie Jackie Frank with three minutes to go in regulation. Just a minute later, driver Colette Glinkowski converted on the Bears' 6-on-5 opportunity to tie the game at two.

But overtime was not so kind to Cal (26-5, 8-1 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation). The team had better scoring chances in the extra period, but Stanford (25-4, 8-1 in the MPSF) still walked away with a 3-2 victory and the tournament title.

"We had good shots at the end, but they didn't go in," Bears coach Peter Asch said.

Frank stole the show in overtime, turning in spectacular saves on point-blank shots by Cal two-meter player Kaliya Young and driver Julia Cesnik. Frank's heroics made it possible for Stanford to secure the win with just one extra goal - a shot by Stanford driver Julie Gardner that just barely drifted past the goal line two minutes into overtime.

The loss at Spieker Pool left a bitter taste in the mouths of some Bears players. Glinkowski - one of four seniors playing in her last home game - pinpointed the missed opportunities that could have changed the outcome.

"We came in to win, and it didn't happen," she said. "Our shooting wasn't on. As long as one or two of the numerous shots we had went in, we would've won."

But for a team that rallied back late in the fourth, Asch could not help but be pleased with his players' drive.

"We showed a lot of character, coming back after being down by two goals," Asch said. "The players showed a lot of effort and tenacity."

Having already clinched a spot in the national championships by virtue of their two victories Friday - an 8-3 win over San Jose State and a 13-2 romp over Cal State Bakersfield - Saturday's game had little real significance for the Bears with the exception of determining seeding, and perhaps getting some momentum going into nationals.

The important game, according to Asch, was the match against the Spartans.

"It's the biggest game we've had of the year," he said. "It got us into the national championships."

SJSU put forth a valiant effort to start off Friday afternoon's matchup, hoping to upset Cal and clinch a national championship berth itself.

After the Bears jumped out early on a Fleener goal, the Spartans countered with two quick goals within the next minute to take a 2-1 lead. The advantage lasted all of two minutes. Cal then powered back with five unanswered goals to seal the Spartans' fate.

The morning matchup against Bakersfield proved a much easier undertaking, with seven different Bears rounding out the scoring. Cal pummeled the Road Runners with nine goals in the first half, sending Bakersfield on its way to a consolation match.

The Bears, along with the other three teams which placed in the top four at the regional National Qualifier - Stanford, UC Davis, and SJSU - will travel to Indianapolis in two weeks to take on the best teams in the country at the national championships.


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