Nov. 10, 2012
BERKELEY - There are only two seniors on this year's Golden Bears men's water polo team, but those two seniors are major contributors, as well as inspirational forces, on Kirk Everist's 2012 squad. Team captain Marin Balarin and attacker Mason Cox will be acknowledged this Sunday (Nov. 11) on Senior Day as No. 4-ranked Cal hosts UC Santa Barbara in the Bears' final home match of the season at Spieker Aquatics Complex.
Balarin, who was born in Zagreb, Croatia, but grew up in Berkeley and attended Berkeley High School, has excelled both in the classroom and the pool. Majoring in operational research and management science, Balarin was honored for his academics last season by both the American Water Polo Coaches and the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation.
In the pool, Balarin has improved and moved up the ranks every year he has been a Bear following a high school career in which he recorded a school-record 210 goals. After playing in 11 matches as a sophomore, he had a breakout year as a junior, scoring 19 goals in 25 matches with 28 ejections earned and was the recipient of the Peter J. Cutino Award as the team's most improved player.
This season, Balarin has become one of the top players in the MPSF. He is currently third on the team with 32 goals and has a team-high 38 ejections earned entering the final home weekend. Balarin has also contributed 20 steals, 17 assists and four field blocks - playing one of his best matches of the year with two goals in Cal's 14-8 victory over Stanford on Oct. 20. Entering the final weekend he has notched 59 career goals for the Bears.
Cox, from Placentia, Calif., is having his best season as a Bear, tallying 12 goals in 19 matches while tying for the team lead with 25 assists and recording 14 steals and nine field blocks. Prior to this year, the American studies major's best season was as a redshirt freshman in 2009 when he scored 11 goals in 28 matches with 18 assists and was an MPSF All-Academic selection. He enters the final home weekend of 2012 with 28 career goals.
"It's been a pleasure to coach both Marin and Mason the past four years," said Everist. "I first met Mason when he was about 12 and was the youngest player at our winter camp. You could tell then he was tough and competitive. We couldn't keep him away from the older players' drills. He was relentless then, and still is today. Mason has battled through a lot and it is great to see him having an impact in his senior year.
"Marin's career at Cal is a great story. He has tried every position except goalie and has always been willing to battle for a spot and learn. For him to become a starting player and team captain as a senior has been so great to watch. He is a leader and someone whom I am very proud of."