Men's Polo Opens With Central Valley Foes

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The Cal men's water polo team is going to compete this year. The Bears are going to be in a lot of games, and they are going to win many of those games. This is known.

It is also known that the 2000 Bears feature a veteran team. With the opportunity to start five senior position players, it is known that Cal is going to score goals. And it is known that over the summer, the Bears' defense was great, led by a pair of young goalies.

What isn't known is how these young players will play come game time, when the pressure is on.

The Bears take on UC Davis in Woodland, Calif., tomorrow at 2:45 p.m. before hosting Pacific Saturday at 11 a.m. at Spieker Pool.

As they head into their opening weekend of play, Cal players and coaches feel the play of their young net-minders is really the only question left to be answered.

"Our goalies are one of our great unknowns," said Cal coach Peter Asch, whose team finished 14-11 last season. "We're extremely young in the goals. Once we get into the actual season it all changes."

The fact that Cal begins its season against Davis should play into its favor. The Aggies are a young, inexperienced team that lacks the ability to recruit the quality of players the Bears do.

Add to that the fact that Davis didn't play together this summer, and there is good reason to believe that Cal should have no problem starting its season off on the right foot.

"Davis is one of those teams that doesn't have a lot of recruiting," senior co-captain Adam Metzger said. "It should be a good confidence-booster for us."

Although the Bears and Aggies did not play over the summer, they did meet in a scrimmage last weekend. Following the scrimmage, Cal felt good about where its level of play was. The pressure defense was decent. The counter-attack was good, and once again, the goalies were on their game. But a real indication of how the team is playing will come this weekend.

Pacific, on the other hand, is a team the Bears know a lot about. According to Asch, the Tigers are an extremely aggressive team that, despite their consistently underrated ability, always seem to cause problems for their opponents.

"UOP did graduate some of their better players last year," Asch said. "But their coach will have them ready to play. They are a physical, tough water polo team."

Pacific was also present at the scrimmage that Cal participated in last weekend, and although the Bears had little trouble running their offense against the Tigers, the players aren't taking anything for granted.

"We all know that we should beat UOP," Metzger said. "But we can't take them too lightly. We have to play them like they're one of the best teams."

While it may sound as though confidence is high for the Cal coaches and players, it has good reason to be. In August, the Bears traveled to Southern California to compete at the summer nationals, where they beat defending NCAA champion UCLA en route to capturing the tournament title.

Cal also won a tournament in Hawaii over the summer, which also featured some of the nation's best teams.

"We're pretty prepared (for this weekend)," senior co-captain James Lathrop said. "We've all been here all summer and we went to Hawaii and Los Angeles and held our own against some of the top collegiate teams. We just have to run our own game - counter hard, and just play our game."

In the past, Cal's game has been to pressure hard on defense and create fast counter-attacks. And in the past, the Bears have been known to use the two goalie system effectively.

It has been a couple of years, however, since Cal has had to employ this approach in the goal. But starting Friday, the Bears will likely have sophomore Russell Bernstein start in goal, and at halftime redshirt freshman Tim Kates will most likely take over.

"They're both going to have to step up," Metzger said. "But I can't remember a game this summer where they both played poorly."


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