Sept. 21, 2005
BERKELEY, CALIF. - Could this be the year California recaptures the crown?
The 2005 Golden Bears certainly have one of the more talented squads in the program's history with three returning All-Americans, five players who are members of the USA Senior National Training Team and waves of other athletes who are part of Kirk Everist's and Boyd Lachance's outstanding recruiting classes. In other words, Cal water polo is loaded with talent and depth, and is a strong contender to win the national title.
"I am very excited about our prospects this year," said Everist, who is in his fourth season leading the Bears. "The competition against the other schools will be fierce as usual, but if we can play consistent team water polo, I feel we can play with anyone."
Cal features an extremely talented group of returnees, highlighted by 2004 first-team All-American John Mann, who as a sophomore was the Bears' leading scorer with 60 goals, notching at least one goal in 26 of the team's 30 matches. Mann was also first-team All-MPSF, averaging 2.00 goals per game. The 6-5, 225-pounder was the only sophomore named first-team All-American, and headlines Cal's list of members of the USA Senior National Team.
Juniors Andrija Vasiljevic and Marty Matthies return after earning honorable mention All-America accolades last season. Vasiljevic is a left-handed attacker who is one of the Bears' top offensive threats, scoring 39 goals last year, including two against Stanford in Cal's Big Splash win, and goals against USC and UC Santa Barbara in the MPSF Tournament. He has netted 75 goals in his career and was selected third-team All-MPSF in 2004. Matthies, a member of the Senior National Team, provides Cal with solid all-around play and is considered one of the team's top defenders as a center back. He finished last year with 14 goals, including a key score against Stanford in the Big Splash.
Senior goalie Nate Bennett, junior attacker Brian Bacharach and junior center Brian Kinsel also return after impressive 2004 campaigns. Team captain Bennett is one of the country's top goalies and a member of the National Team. He was honorable mention All-MPSF after recording 216 saves in 29 matches, including 12 saves in the Big Splash victory over Stanford, and an impressive 27 saves in the MPSF Tournament. Team captain Bacharach was the Bears' second-leading scorer last year with 48 goals, including notching the matching-winning score in Cal's upset of eventual national champion UCLA during the SoCal Tournament. The 6-5, 235-pound Kinsel was also honorable mention All-MPSF after finishing fourth on the team with 37 goals, including tying Bacharach with a team-high four goals during the MPSF Tournament.
Sophomore Michael Sharf and true freshman Shea Buckner are two more forces in the Bears' arsenal. Sharf, a 6-3, attacker, and Buckner, a 6-4 center back, are two of the youngest members of the USA National Team. Sharf tallied 22 goals as a freshman, providing the Bears with outstanding performances against the nation's top teams. He had a team-high three goals in Cal's upset of UCLA at the SoCal Tournament, and notched three goals against USC in the MPSF Tournament. Buckner is the Bears' top recruit as he comes to Cal after being named the 2004 CIF Division II Player of the Year and scoring 364 goals at Villa Park (Calif.) High School.
Even with the long list of returning standouts, Everist has several additional talented young stars worth noting - proving the Bears are at least two-deep in every position. Sophomores Mike Hayes, Adam Haley, Zac Monsees, Jeff Tyrrell, Kevin Platshon and Cameron Jones are all in contention for substantial playing time. Hayes is a strong offensive player who had 13 goals as a freshman, Haley is one of Cal's top center backs and Monsees is a left-handed attacker who notched 10 goals as a freshman. Tyrrell, Platshon and Jones are also going to be in the Bears' playing rotation and were all members of the Lamorinda water polo club team that won the 20-Under National Championship this summer in Davis, Calif.
Additional depth will be provided by senior captain Tom Kurth, a 6-6, 255-pound center; Trent Calder, a 6-4 redshirt freshman center; Jon Marshall, a 6-0 sophomore attacker and 6-2 sophomore attacker Jonathan Richina, as well redshirt freshman goalie Marc Vacquier and freshman goalie Nick Sgarlata. This group has also shown the ability to contribute this season, both offensively and defensively. Kurth, Calder, Richina, Vacquier and Sgarlata were members of the Lamorinda Water Polo Club that excelled in both the 20-Under National (gold medal) and Senior National (bronze medal) competition this past summer.
"The team has worked extremely hard this past spring and summer in both the pool and the weight room," said Everist. "We have become closer as a unit, and we will definitely need that cohesion in order to get back into the NCAA championship."