Men's Water Polo: Homeless Polo Heads South for Weekend

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The temporary closure of Spieker Aquatics Complex has left the Cal men's water polo team homeless but not hopeless.

The No. 3 Bears (11-4, 2-2 in Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) found the brighter side of displacement, using the opportunity to practice in different pools to prepare them for the challenges of being on the road.

Cal will hit the road to face No. 13 UC Santa Barbara (6-11, 0-3) in MPSF action Saturday, and non-conference opponent No. 7 Loyola Marymount (10-11) Sunday.

Although the Bears have to make sacrifices, like waking up at 4:45 am to practice at nearby Diablo Valley College or night practices at Miramonte High School, they have found ways to cope with the situation, according to freshman Vincent Bevins.

"(The closure) has been an inconvenience, of course," said senior Peter Conte. "But it has really forced us to focus more on practice and concentrating on the game no matter where we are."

Cal is coming off a 4-3 loss to No. 2 UCLA, which snapped the team's four game winning streak.

But the Bears started a new streak of wins, with two victories in last Sunday's doubleheader against UC Santa Cruz and Santa Clara. In an impressive offensive showing against Division III competition, Cal soundly outscored its opponents by a combined score of 37-7.

The Bears beat the Banana Slugs 18-4, in their highest offensive output of the season, then went on to best themselves against the Broncos, defeating them 19-3.

Both UCSB and LMU are teams that look to be tougher competition this weekend, but experience is on the Bears' side.

Cal has met each team once this year at the NorCal Tournament. The Bears defeated the Gauchos and the Lions to claim fifth place in their home tournament.

Despite the prior victories against both teams, Cal knows that both squads still pose potential threats to its season.

"When you play teams you've already beaten, you tend to not take them as seriously the next time you meet," Conte said. "We can't forget that these games are important too."

UCSB is also coming off a tough 10-5 loss to No. 7 Pacific. The Gauchos have yet to win an MPSF match.

Despite their record, UCSB can still be a threat to the Bears with their similar style of game.

"UCSB tends to rely on early drives and running off counterattacks," Conte said.

In the previous match, Cal handled the Gauchos' similarities by establishing early control and using that control to defeat them 13-5.

Although the Bears defeated LMU as well, the margin of victory was much closer.

In the fifth-place match of its own NorCal tournament, Cal defeated the Lions 12-9.

"It was a very close game the first time we played them," Bevins said.

LMU will be a different style of competition from UCSB, and the Bears will have to focus on a more defensive aspect of the game.

"We will have to play good personal defense to ensure that we don't leave any of their outside shooters open," Conte said.

The Lions, also riding high from a doubleheader victory against Whittier and Pomona, have yet to earn a victory in their seven meetings against Cal.


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