While the Bears did not take home the MPSF trophy Sunday after losing 9-8 to the Cardinal in the championship game, they should not feel too discouraged, as they still punched their first ticket to the NCAA tournament since 2017.
Here’s a recap of Cal’s two games this past weekend.
The No.1 Bears fended off No. 4 Trojans to advance to the MPSF championship game with an 11-8 victory. Like every other game between these two teams this season, it was decided by three points. The blue and gold found themselves in a 3-1 hole early on but scored three straight and never looked back. Regardless of the sport, championship-caliber teams usually have plenty of depth to rely on, and the Bears’ depth was put on full display Saturday. Eight different Bears scored, with junior utility Jack Deely leading the way with five points for the Bears, including one goal and four assists. Meanwhile, on the defensive end, goalkeeper Adrian Weinberg held down the fort with seven saves.
The Bears came into this tournament as the No. 1 seed, but their 17-10 beat down at the hands of the Cardinal on Feb. 21 was likely still fresh in their mind. The blue and gold were looking to redeem themselves, and, unlike in some of its recent games, Cal came out with a strong start, pulling ahead of Stanford 4-1 in the first quarter. Unfortunately for the Bears, their defense faltered as they went on to give up six straight goals. Stanford’s lead eventually increased to four late in the game, but Cal was not done yet. The Bears scored three unanswered goals, but their fourth-quarter surge was too little, too late. Once again, Cal had eight different players score, demonstrating its offensive prowess. The Bears’ standout player this match was junior utility Marko Valecic, who had four points in the match, which led all players. While Stanford’s six-goal streak in this match suggests that Cal’s defense was subpar, it was not all bad — Weinberg had an impressive nine saves on the match and held Stanford to its lowest single-game scoring output of the season.
The Bears will hop back in the water again Saturday, March 20 at 5 p.m. PST for the NCAA championships semifinals. Cal will play at USC’s Uytengsu Aquatics Center and face off against the winner of the USC versus Bucknell quarterfinal match scheduled for March 18.
Justin Kim covers women’s basketball and men’s water polo. Contact him at email@example.com.