There was no victor between the Greeks and Trojans in Homer’s “Iliad,” as the tale ended before the conclusion of the war. But in the “Aeneid” by Virgil, the Greeks played a brilliant hand, crafting a gift of destruction known as the Trojan horse. As the story goes, the war ended with deception, and the Greeks flooded into the city and counterattacked, rendering the Trojans helpless in defeat.
At the Uytengsu Aquatics Center in Los Angeles, all eyes were on the Bears who moved down to No. 5 in the rankings after a loss against current No. 8 Pepperdine. Although they were defeated in two out of the last three games, the blue and gold came back with a stunning victory against No. 1 USC, outsmarting the Trojans in their home territory. Just like in the “Aeneid,” the Trojans fell, but this time to the Bears instead of the Greeks.
There were multiple players to be commended for this win, beginning with junior goalkeeper Adrian Weinberg, who set an impressive record for the most saves in a game by an MPSF goalie in the current season. Graduate student and All-American Nikos Delagrammatikas came through by scoring a hat trick, boosting the morale and rallying his teammates around him.
Junior attacker Jake Stone stepped up to the challenge as well, guarding space and taking shots with confidence. Freshman Max Casabella continued his rampage, netting a key point that brought the Bears up 7-5 in the fourth quarter.
“I think it’s (setting a record) a good thing for me,” Weinburg said. “Obviously, my goal is to win it all, so if I could do this when it really matters, I’ll be super happy about it.”
The Bears learned their lesson from previous matchups against the Trojans, and this time, they knew exactly what needed to be done to come out on top. The blue and gold’s morale was high heading into the game, as they concentrated on playing at their own pace, unwilling to fall into USC’s trap. Cal started off strong, with senior Joe Molina assisting Delagrammatikas to score barely two minutes into the game. Weinburg reflected on his own performance and that of his teammates and the Bears’ success in staying on top.
“The defensive schemes that they were doing and the offensive scheme that we were doing was probably going through my mind for most of the game,” Weinberg said.
It is clear that teamwork and communication were the key to the blue and gold’s victory. The Bears were able to communicate effectively throughout the game, focusing on counterattacking and following up as opposed to staying on defensive mode.
“My team really helped me a lot,” Weinberg said. “Toward the end of the game, we had a huge field block, which probably would’ve gotten in (the goal) if I didn’t have one of my top blockers, (Nikolaus) Papanikolaou.”
After falling behind 3-4 in the third quarter with 1:33 left on the clock, the blue and gold were able to turn the tide with Delagrammatikas scoring his third goal of the game, bringing the score back to even.
Senior attacker Miles O’Brein-Schridde followed through with 35 seconds to spare in the quarter, helping the Bears take the lead as the game headed into the final quarter, where Cal was able to maintain the lead and emerge victorious.
“The more I talk and the more I can get other people to talk, the more people are going to be confident in what they are doing,” Weinberg said.
There had been a long-standing rivalry between Cal and USC after the Trojans came out on top in the last two head-to-head games, but the Bears demonstrated outstanding collaboration and perseverance, outsmarting the Trojans in a tight victory.
With teamwork there is success; with persistence there is triumph; and with the days of sparring on foreign waters behind them, there is much to look forward to this week when the Bears will be playing on home territory once again.
Yuqing Qiu covers men’s water polo. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.