Sept. 23, 2012
LOS ANGELES, CALIF - In a fierce battle between two collegiate water polo powers, No. 4-ranked Cal was tipped by No. 1-ranked USC, 7-6, Sunday (Sept. 23) in a nationally televised match on ESPNU. The Golden Bears (7-3), who have now lost seven one-goal matches in the last two years, were led by two goals apiece from sophomore Aleksa Saponjic and redshirt freshman Colin Mulcahy, plus 12 saves from sophomore goalie Jon Sibley.
The Trojans' Nikola Vavic scored the match-winning goal with 1:38 left in the contest on a shot that just slipped past Sibley after deflecting off the right bar of the goalie cage. Cal had three tough chances to tie the match in its final three possessions, including Saponjic's shot attempt with seven seconds left that was blocked by USC goalie James Clark.
The Bears gave four-time defending NCAA champion USC all it could handle. After the Trojans' Michael Rosenthal opened the match's scoring with a goal at 5:17 in the first period, Mulcahy scored the first of his two goals on an inside skip shot past Clark at 2:12 in the first period.
A Rex Butler goal gave USC a 2-1 lead, but Cal came storming back on a strong inside move by sophomore Matt Russell at one minute left in the quarter, and a goal with one second left in the opening period by Saponjic to give the Bears a 3-2 advantage.
Both teams had a pair of goals in the second period with Mulcahy converting on another inside move and junior Hunter Gettelfinger firing a shot past Clark from the right side to give Cal a 5-4 lead at the half.
Kostas Genidounias, who led USC with three goals, tallied the lone score with 1:41 left in the in the third period to tie the match at 5-5. Saponjic opened the scoring in the fourth period with a counterattack goal at 7:26 off an assist from Sibley to give the Bears a 6-5 lead. But, the Trojans ended up scoring the final two goals of the day on Mace Rapsey's counterattack goal with 5:24 left in the match, and Vavic's game-winner with less than two minutes remaining.
"It was another tight Cal versus USC game," said Cal coach Kirk Everist. "Defense was good for both teams. We need to execute better on our man advantage, but we are fighting hard and will continue to do so."
The Bears will next enter the SoCal Invitational, Sept. 29-30 in Santa Barbara, again facing the top teams in the nation after placing fourth at last weekend's NorCal Invitational.
CAL 3 - 2 - 0 - 1 = 6
USC 2 - 2 - 1 - 2 = 7
USC -- Kostas Genidounias 2, Michael Rosenthal, Rex Butler, Jeremy Davie, Mace Rapsey, Nicola Vavic.
SAVES: James Clark (USC) 9, Jon Sibley (CAL) 12
5:13 -- Rosenthal (USC) 1-0
2:14 -- Mulcahy (CAL) 1-1
1:41 -- Butler (USC) 2-1
1:00 -- Russell (CAL) 2-2
0:01 -- Saponjic (CAL) 2-3
5:30 -- Mulcahy (CAL) 2-4
4:05 -- Davie (USC) 3-4
3:40 -- Gettelfinger (CAL) 3-5
0:46 -- Genidounias (USC) 4-5
1:41 -- Genidounias (USC) 5-5
7:36 -- Saponjic (CAL) 5-6
5:25 -- Rapsey (USC) 6-6
1:38 -- Vavic (USC) 7-6