Men's Water Polo: Cal Dives Into Pacific for Third Consecutive Game

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The Cal men's water polo team must feel as though it is starring in the water polo version of Groundhog Day.

It seems every time the Bears show up at the pool, they see Pacific staring back at them.

No. 3 Cal (3-2, 0-1 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) takes on the No. 5 Tigers (5-2, 1-0) for its third consecutive game this Saturday at Spieker Aquatics Complex. 

The two teams have scrapped it out over the past two matches, each coming away with one victory. 

Pacific has been the surprise powerhouse of the season, armed with a crop of new players with valuable redshirt experience.

The Tigers' national ranking has climbed rapidly from No. 11 to No. 5 in the three weeks since this season's opening, after wins over No. 7 Loyola Marymount and No. 2 USC in the Southern California Tournament.

Cal, which had beaten Pacific in five consecutive regular-season games before falling last Saturday in Stockton, has not taken defeat lightly.

"We're a great team with strong leadership," junior goalkeeper Tim Kates said. "We want to show them that we don't let other teams come into our house and outplay us."     

The Bears defeated the Tigers 9-7 in the third-place match of the Southern California Tournament, but were upset 8-5 last week.

Pacific shocked Cal with six unanswered goals in the third quarter. 

"We truly only had one bad quarter," Kates said about the loss to the Tigers.  "We weren't on the same page, offensively and defensively."

The lack of organization led to less than smooth transitions between the offense and defense and allowed for turnovers and mistakes, Kates added.

"It gave us a reality check for what we need to do in order to improve through the season," Kates said. "We've been having more intense practices this week to improve on those things."

Controlling the ball more efficiently, reducing the turnover rate, and establishing control early on in the game are the main skills Cal is concentrating on in practice, coach Kirk Everist said.

"We need to concentrate more on playing better than last time and playing good water polo," Everist said. "And less on just winning the game."

The Bears expect familiarity to work to their advantage, allowing them to prepare specific strategies to counter the Tigers' set plays.

"We've been working on specific defensive strategies that are unique to playing against them," Kates said.

The team has also been putting in extra time watching tapes of the previous games to target its weaknesses, Everist said.

Though next week's NorCal Tournament sets up the chance of a mind-numbing fourth consecutive meeting with Pacific, Cal isn't giving in to the insanity just yet.

"It doesn't matter who we play," Kates said. "We just love to play water polo."


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