Bears Can't Comeback on Anteaters

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If water polo gods existed, you can bet that the Bears would be sacrificing as many anteaters as they could get their hands on in order to make the third quarter of Saturday's game nonexistent.

Or, instead of asking to erase UC Irvine's three-goal third, the Cal water polo team could simply have pleaded for a couple extra minutes on the clock. Just a minute more, or perhaps even less than that, would have been enough to complete the comeback with a final rush up the pool.

And had the Gods existed, heard the Bears' cries, and been pleased with the gifts, Cal would have emerged victorious, instead of a suffering a 5-4 loss to No. 5 UCI at Spieker Pool .

Unfortunately for the No. 2 Bears, their last-ditch efforts to send the game into overtime failed as Irvine's Jeff Powers managed to hold onto the ball with the precious seconds quickly ticking off the clock.

In a game that featured a late surge by a Cal team that came into the fourth quarter trailing by four notches, the ending proved anticlimactic. After last week's MPSF Player of the Week, Eldad Hazor, made it a one-goal game by putting a four-meter penalty shot past Irvine goalie Dan Hipp with 37 seconds left, the Bears (6-4, 2-1 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) failed to gain possession of the ball again.

And reflective of the way things went for Cal Saturday afternoon, the inability to get one last offensive rush turned out to be yet another missed opportunity in this conference match-up.

"Irvine played very, very well," Cal coach Peter Asch said. "They put a few opportunities that they had in, and we didn't. That was the difference in the game. We didn't convert on our opportunities."

While the Anteaters (7-3, 2-1 in the MPSF) came out charged with ten shots to the Bears' three in the first half, Cal's defense managed to keep the game close. The score remained tied at one until UCI's John Dorfi scored an extra-man goal with 2:09 left in the second.

But it could have been an entirely different story.

"At halftime we could have been up by a couple goals if we converted," Asch said. "We had four or five goals right in front of the cage that we just couldn't put in. Against a good team, if you don't convert those, you're not going to win."

After UCI opened the third with Power's second goal of the afternoon, Cal unsuccessfully tried to turn the momentum around.

While UCI's shots seemed to have no problem finding the back of the net, the Bears weren't able to convert. Rob Arroyo's shot tattooed the post. Adam Metzger bounced the ball off the water and into the crossbar. Mike West missed a couple shots wide. Cal failed to score after goalie Russell Bernstein's solid block sent Spencer Dornin on a mad drive towards the Anteaters' end.

UCI had a relatively easy time in padding its comfortable lead in midst of the Bears' failed attempts - Dorfi converted on a penalty shot and two-meter man Dan Klatt managed to score the eventual game-winner with ten seconds to go in the third period.

Cal two-meter man Jerry Smith had a good opportunity to make it a two-goal game with two seconds left, but his shot just barely sailed over the top of the net.

After such an unproductive third, the Bears finally took their own strategy to heart and came out ready to attack their four-goal deficit.

"We talked about swimming through more and being more active on offense," Asch said. "And they were, but it wasn't anything different from what we had told them in the other quarters. It's when panic set in, when they said, 'well, we better do that.'"

Cal freshman Tim Kates, who replaced Bernstein in the fourth, kept the Anteaters scoreless the rest of the way, allowing the Bears to surmount a comeback. Driver Joe Kaiser scored at 5:15, before Hazor added the two final goals of the afternoon. Unfortunately, it was a case of too little, too late, as Cal simply just ran out of time.

"We did a good job on defense," Asch said. "We gave up five goals, and that should be enough to win a game offensively. I don't think we drove through enough on our front court offense. When we did that we were successful, and I thought we had a multitude of opportunities to put the ball in the cage. We just didn't put it in."


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