March 12, 2012
BERKELEY - The University of California men's water polo program, which last fall was 22-4 overall and 7-1 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, also excels in the classroom as the Golden Bears had seven players noted for their academic excellence by the Association of Collegiate Water Polo Coaches. As a team, Cal was exemplary as well with a 3.11 GPA, 11th in the nation and tops among the nine MPSF schools.
Senior Charlie Steffens (interdisciplinary studies); junior Marin Balarin (applied match); sophomores Giacomo Cupido (political economies of industrial societites) and Hunter Gettelfinger (American studies); redshirt freshman Blake Kelly (undeclared); and freshmen Aleksa Saponjic (undeclared) and Luka Ivanovic were all recognized by the ACWPC for their work in the classroom.
"It is fantastic to have these seven players recognized for their work in and out of the pool," said Cal coach Kirk Everist. "The team had lofty academic goals last semester and they did an excellent job in the classroom as was reflected in our team's GPA coming in at the top of the conference."
Steffens, Balarin, Cupido, Gettelfinger and Kelly were earlier named to the MPSF All-Academic team. Freshman attacker Saponjic was also tabbed an honorable mention All-American with 30 goals in 22 matches, and this past January helped his native Serbia capture the European Championships.
Senior attacker Steffens had 14 goals in 25 matches this past season with 16 assists, 23 steals, nine ejections earned and three field blocks. He finished with 71 career goals, including a goal in this year's MPSF Tournament, and was a 2010 honorable mention All-American. Steffen's father, Carlos, earned All-America honors three times at Cal, helping the Bears to the 1977 NCAA title and garnering the 1979 Pac-10 Player of the Year award.
Balarin (19 goals), Cupido (36 steals), Gettelfinger (12 goals, 28 steals, 10 field blocks) and Kelly (20 steals, 11 goals) and Russell (five steals, five ejections earned) were all major contributors for Cal this season as well.
The Bears finished the 2011 campaign 22-4 overall and 7-1 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation. Cal's four losses this past season were all by one goal, including 7-6 in overtime to UCLA in the Nov. 26 MPSF Tournament semifinal in Los Angeles. The Bears also fell 6-5 to UCLA Sept. 18 in the semifinals of the NorCal Tournament in Stockton, 10-9 in overtime to Stanford Oct. 2, and 9-8 in sudden death overtime to USC Oct. 15 at Cal.