Bears Finish Right Where They Started

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STANFORD-The Cal women's water polo team finished the 2001 season as the No. 4 team in the country. After the first weekend of the 2002 campaign, the Bears are in the same place.

Cal competed at the Stanford Invitational seeded fourth amongst the eight premier teams in the nation. The No. 4 Bears' preliminary position proved true after they lost a tough, 7-5 game against No. 3 USC Sunday afternoon to place fourth in the tournament.

Similarly, the Bears lost their final game of last season to the Trojans in the third place match of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation tournament last season.

Stanford prevailed at Avery Aquatics Center over the weekend, overtaking No. 1 UCLA in the

championship game with a decisive 9-4 win. USC finished third, followed by Cal-which lost to the Bruins by one goal on Saturday. The other teams at the Invitational were San Jose State, UC Santa Barbara, Massachusetts and UC Davis.

The Bears fought hard against an overpowering Trojans squad, but were outsized and overmatched by a stifling defense. In the final minute of the game, USC held Cal from even attempting a shot on goal.

Cal led through much of the game. The Bears held onto a 5-4 lead until the final seconds of the third quarter when USC tied the match with a shot that squirted into the bottom right corner of the net as time expired.

The Trojans later took the lead with only five minutes left in the match on a difficult outside shot following an impressive defensive stand.

As the minutes disappeared, the Bears fought furiously to make a comeback, taking three solid scoring chances with a six-on-five advantage, only to have two of them blocked and the third bounce off the top of the cage.

The Trojans responded with yet another goal on a counterattack to extend the lead to the final of 7-5.

Though Cal couldn't beat any of the top three teams from last year, it proved to be at a level equal to the other teams despite featuring young players seeing their first collegiate action.

"It was disappointing in that we lost a couple close games that I think we could have won," Cal coach Peter Asch said. "(It served as) a barometer for where we are. We look at it and say we're right there with the best teams."

Sophomore Lauren Dennis stepped up to fill some rather big shoes-facing the difficult task of replacing last year's All-America goalie Fana Fuqua. Dennis played well, making 30 saves over the four games.

Cal's top two returning scorers, Brenna Fleener and Erika Lorenz, each notched six goals over the four-game tournament. Senior Julia Cesnik had 4 goals over the weekend-including two against USC.

"We played well for the first time playing together, though we could have performed better," Cesnik said. "We could have beat UCLA and USC."

The Bears defeated SJSU 7-6 on Saturday and UMass 19-6 on Sunday.


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