No. 2 Cal MWP Hosts No. 4 USC
Courtesy: Cal Athletics  
Release:  10/12/2011

Oct. 12, 2011

BERKELEY - Sat., Oct. 15 USC, Spieker Aquatics Complex Berkeley, Calif. 2 p.m.

Bear Bites:
In one of the biggest regular-season contests of 2011 and a rematch of the 2010 NCAA title game, No. 2-ranked Cal (14-2, 2-0) hosts No. 4 USC (11-2, 2-0) Saturday (Oct. 15) at 2 p.m. at Spieker Aquatics Complex. Spieker Aquatics was the site of last year's NCAA finals in which the Trojans upended the Golden Bears, 12-10 in overtime. Looking to avenge last year's loss, Cal features the 2010 National Player of the Year Ivan Rackov, who leads the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation in scoring with 49 goals in 15 matches (3.27 gpg). The Bears also lead the MPSF in team scoring with 13.25 goals per game. USC, led by senior goalie Joel Dennerley, the 2010 MPSF Player of the Year, is tops in the league in defense, allowing 4.38 goals per game. Cal has outscored its opponents, 212-90, this season and defensively the Bears are second in the league with 5.63 goals per game. On Sept. 5 Rackov became this season's first MPSF Player of the Week after tallying 12 goals with eight steals and seven assists in Cal's Sept. 3 home victories over UC Davis and Santa Clara. Last week, the Bears' junior goalie, Justin Parsons, was tabbed the Oct. 10 MPSF Player of the Week after tallying 26 goals in MPSF wins at No. 3 UCLA and Long Beach State, and a victory at No. 9 UC San Diego.

Returning Cal All-Americans/Top Newcomers:
Along with Rackov, the Bears return four other All-Americans from the 2010 national runner-up squad that finished 24-4 overall and a perfect 8-0 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation - seniors Cory Nasoff, Charlie Steffens and Luka Saponjic, and junior goalie Parsons. Cal also welcomes in junior Ayal Keren, a 6-2 utility player from Tivon, Israel who was the California Junior College Player of the Year at Diablo Valley College, and 6-3 freshman attacker Aleksa Saponjic, who joined brother Luka on the Serbian National Team that won the gold medal at the 2011 World University Games in Shenzen, China.

Bears' 2011 Scenerio:
Rackov leads the MPSF in scoring and has 214 career goals, including eight goals last week...Luka Saponjic is second on the team with 31 goals (sixth in MPSF, 2.07 gpg), while his brother, Aleksa, is now third on the squad with 18 goals in 13 2011, the Bears look to capture the national championship for the first time since upending the Trojans in the 2006 (8-7) and 2007 (8-6) title matches...the Bears have more collegiate titles (13) than any other team in the 2010, Rackov became the first Cal player named the winner of both the Collegiate Water Polo Coaches and the Peter J. Cutino Player of the Year awards, leading the Bears with 79 goals, 82 assists and 70 steals...Rackov was also first-team All-American, first-team All-NCAA Tournament, first-team All-MPSF and first-team MPSF All-Tournament...Nasoff was a third-team All-American and second-team All-NCAA Tournament selection in 2010 after tallying 28 goals and 24 ejections earned, and this summer was a member of the USA National Team that was fourth at the WUG...Parsons was also a third-team All-American last year after notching 197 saves, including 21 saves in the two NCAA tournament matches...he currently has 116 saves in 13 matches...Cal hosts the NCAA Tournament again this season, Dec. 3-4 at Spieker Aquatics Complex...

Noting USC:
No. 4 USC (11-2, 2-0), winners of the last three NCAA titles, is coached by Jovan Vavic (17th year) and led in scoring by senior Peter Kurzeka with 23 goals in 13 matches (1.77 gpg). Last year the Bears were 1-2 versus the Trojans, falling, 12-11, in the semifinals of the NorCal Invitational at Cal, winning, 12-9, in an MPSF league match in Los Angeles, and losing, 12-10, in an overtime heartbreaker in the 2010 NCAA title match at Spieker Aquatics Complex. The Bears were 4-0 versus the Trojans in NCAA title matches (1983, 1987, 2006, 2007) prior to last year's overtime loss.

Head Coach Kirk Everist:
A 2004 inductee into the Cal Athletic Hall of Fame, Kirk Everist is in his 10th year with a 216-60 mark (.783), leading the Bears to NCAA titles in 2006 and 2007, and MPSF titles in 2002 and 2006. He was 2006 NCAA and 2002 MPSF Coach of the Year. As a player, Everist won NCAA titles in 1987 and 1988, earning All-America (1986-88) and NCAA Player of the Year (1988). He played for Team USA for nine years (1988-96), competing in the 1992 and 1996 Olympics. Everist Interview.