Cal men’s water polo will be heading to Southern California to face UC Irvine on Oct. 2 and Pepperdine on Oct. 3. As the Bears make their way down south, they’ll be looking to bounce back from their heart-wrenching defeat against USC, during which their hopes for an undefeated season were squashed by a single point. While the USC loss was disappointing, the blue and gold will certainly build off of it and use it as a learning experience as the season progresses.
“Little things will get crisper as the season goes on. It seemed like on video that there were some defensive switches or just reaction times that were off a little bit, so we got to work on that,” said head coach Kirk Everist. “It looked like we were waiting for the perfect decision and sometimes it’s just not going to happen.”
While aiming for perfection is a great mindset for any team, it’s also important to be realistic and compromise when need be. Moreover, how a team adapts to the game can be just as important as how a team prepares for the game, and playing both sides of the ball is key to building championship habits, regardless of the sport.
“We got to do a better job of really focusing in on the defensive end after we score a goal and get ourselves the ball back without giving up a goal,” Everist added.
For a team as talented as Cal, it can be tempting to take the foot off the gas, but if the Bears want to keep their spot at the top, they must not underestimate their opponents this weekend.
“Pepperdine had two or three guys with the junior team who went to the world championships with Adrian (Weinberg) and George (Avakian),” Everist said. “I think they’re still getting their rhythm together and I think they’re going to start to play better and better as the season goes on, so we just got to be ready.”
At face value, this weekend looks to be much less challenging than last weekend, as the blue and gold will only be playing half the games of last weekend against lesser opponents. With that being said, two-game weekends can still present its fair share of challenges.
“Now we’re only playing one game a day and teams can prepare for one team and not be forced to prepare for four different teams,” Everist said.
Pepperdine and UC Irvine will likely be hungry to go up the rankings and hand Cal a rare losing card; these are two teams that should not be underestimated.
The Anteaters are led by senior Casey Lynton who currently leads the Golden Coast Conference with 51 points and 30 steals. UC Irvine, ranked No.13, has a 6-5 record, including 13-12 win against then-No. 17 Loyola Marymount.
Pepperdine boasts a strong offense kled by senior Balazs Kosa, a three-time ACWPC All-American who leads the Golden Coast Conference with 23 assists.
“We’re going to have a team that’s prepared for us, seen us play, seen the video and is going to just focus on that game,” Everist said. “We’ve got to match their energy and not let them get confident.”
Justin Kim covers men’s basketball and men’s water polo. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.