Nov. 10, 2011
BERKELEY - Friday night's men's water polo match (Nov. 11, 5 p.m.) between Pacific and California is significant, not just because it is an important Mountain Pacific Sports Federation league match, but because it is also the final regular season home contest for 11 Golden Bear seniors who have dedicated themselves to the sport and have spent so many hours of practice and competition at Spieker Aquatics Complex.
"My goal for all our players is to make California Water Polo a better program for having had them be a part of it," said Cal coach Kirk Everist. "The 2011 Senior Class truly has accomplished this goal. This group has produced at the highest levels in the pool, in the classroom and in the community. This is a senior class that as a coach, an alumnus, and a former player, I am very proud to have had as members of the California Water Polo family. Congratulations should go out to all of them on what they have accomplished and I am excited to see the impact they make on the world once they leave Berkeley."
Following is a quick bio and quote from Kirk Everist on the Bears' 2011 senior class:
Out of Half Moon Bay Calif. and Saint Francis High School, Travis Bickham is a three-year varsity letterwinner and was a member of the Golden Bears' 2010 MPSF Tournament Team. Bickham will graduate with a degree in English and will be joined Friday by his parents Randy and Marsha Travis Bickham.
"Travis is a fighter. He has worked very hard to develop himself as a player, he has been a great student, and is a leader for this team."
From Cooper City Florida, Cooper High School and West Valley Junior College, Matt Golden is a two-year varsity letterwinner and was a member of the Bears' 2010 NCAA championship runner-up team. Golden will graduate with a degree in history and will be joined Friday night by his parents James and Katie.
"Matt is one of the fiercest competitors I have had the pleasure of coaching. His drive, work ethic and intensity are palpable and contagious."
From Sanger Calif. and Buchanan High School, Zach Greenwood is four-year varsity letterwinner and member of the 2010 MPSF championship and NCAA runner-up teams. Greenwood has been a mainstay for the Bears' defense the past two years. He will be graduating with a degree in economics, and Friday night will be joined by his parents Mark and Miriam.
"What a competitor. Zach has battled for five years, changed positions, and has developed into a key player for our program. He is one of our team's hardest workers and has really matured into an excellent player and excellent young man."
From Moraga California and Campolindo High School, Eric Johnson is a one-year varsity letterwinner who will graduate with a degree in economics. Johnson will be joined Friday night by his parents Robert and Jeannie.
"Eric has showed great work ethic in and out of the pool. He has improved consistently over his five years as a Cal Bear and has consistently been one of the team's top students in the classroom."
From Torrey Pines High School and San Diego, Calif., Cory Nasoff is a four-year varsity letterwinner and a 2010 all-conference, All-NCAA Tournament and All-American selection. Nasoff has been a key to the Bear's defense for his four years at Cal where he has been among the team leaders in steals every year. He represented the United States this past summer at the 2011 World University Games in China. Nasoff will graduate in with a degree in interdisciplinary studies and Friday night will be joined by his parents Marc and Carla.
"Cory's is a story of perseverance and drive. Battling through two hip surgeries and making it back to become an All-American and member of the U.S. World University Games team is testament to his drive, desire and work ethic."
From Belgrade, Serbia and Sports Gimnazija, Ivan Rackov is a four-year varsity letterwinner and a two-time all-conference and All-American selection. In 2010, Rackov became the 15th Bear to be named the NCAA's National Player of the Year and the second to bring home the Peter J. Cutino National Player of the Year Award. He led the nation in scoring in 2010 and currently leads the Bears and the nation in scoring once again with 57 goals in 19 matches. Rackov is currently second on the all-time scoring list at Cal with 222 career goals. He will be graduating with a degree in interdisciplinary studies.
"Ivan should go down as one of the best players in Cal's storied history. He is a fierce competitor with a never ending drive to succeed."
Out of Belgrade Serbia and Ecole Francais de Belgrade, Luka Saponjic is a four-year varsity letterwinner and 2010 All-Conference and All-America selection. Saponjic has scored 132 Goals in his Cal career, and is currently ranked seventh in the MPSF Conference in scoring with 35 goals. He is a member of the 2011 Serbian gold medal-winning World University Game's team. Saponjic will graduate with a degree in political economies of industrial societies.
"Luka has been an excellent performer for us over his four years at Cal. He is always willing to take the big shot and has been a huge part of our team's success. He is an excellent young man, whose personality will definitely be missed."
From Lafayette, Calif. and Acalanes High School, Bryan Schnugg is a two-year varsity letterwinner and the President of the Cal Student -Athlete Advisory Council. Schnugg will graduate with a degree in economics And will be joined Friday night by his parents John, a former Cal water polo player, and Meg.
"Brian comes from a long line of Cal Water Polo players and it has been a pleasure to have him as a part of our program. He has worked very hard for this team and his work with the Student-Athlete Advisory Council, currently as their President, has made us all proud."
From Davis High School in Davis, Calif., Jack Stampfl is a four-year varsity letterwinner and member of the 2010 NCAA championship runner-up team. Stampfl will graduate with a degree in history and will be joined Friday by his parents Barry and Celeste.
"Jack is a true team player and has been a pleasure to coach over the past five years. He has always been a player we could count on to bring energy and work hard everyday."
Out of Danville Calif. and Monte Vista High School, Charlie Steffens is a four-year varsity letterwinner, a 2010 All-American and a three-time national and conference all-academic team selection. Steffens was the team's scholar -athlete of the year in both 2009 and 2010 and will graduate with a degree in ethnic studies. He will be joined Friday night by his parents Peggy and Carlos, a former standout Cal water polo player.
"Charlie is one of the toughest kids that I have had the pleasure of coaching in my time at Cal. He is the son of a former Bear All-American and has been a consistent driving force in our team's success. His work in the classroom (as a three-time academic honoree), and in the pool, are testimony to this all-around student-athlete."
From Camarillo, Calif. and Camarillo High School, Wil Toppen is a four-year varsity letterwinner, a member of the 2010 NCAA championship runner-up team and a two-time academic All-American. Toppen will graduate with a degree in integrated biology and will begin medical school in the fall. He will be joined Friday night by his parents David and Nina.
"Wil is a true student-athlete. He has competed for us at the highest levels athletically, while preparing himself for his future career in medicine. His sense of humor and desire to succeed will be missed.
"It has been a great pleasure to have these 11 players as part of Cal water polo over the past four years," said Everist. "This group has worked very hard and I am very proud of what they have accomplished, both in and out of the pool."