Oct. 5, 2011
BERKELEY - Fri., Oct. 7 at UCLA, Spieker Aquatics Center Los Angeles, Calif. 7 p.m.
Sat., Oct. 8 at Long Beach State, Campus Pool Long Beach, Calif. 2 p.m.
Sun., Oct. 9 at UC San Diego, Canyonview Aquatic Center San Diego, Calif. 12 p.m.
No. 2-ranked Cal (11-2), the 2010 national runners-up and featuring National Player of the Year Ivan Rackov, begins Mountain Pacific Sports Federation play this week as the Golden Bears travel to No. 3 UCLA Friday (Oct. 7) and No. 14 Long Beach State Saturday (Oct. 8) for league matches. Cal then competes at No. 9 UC San Diego Sunday (Oct. 9) in a non-league contest. The Bears should have a battle on their hands against the Bruins as the teams have split their two matches this season with Cal losing 6-5 at the NorCal Invitational, but winning, 8-4, last weekend. The Bears moved up a notch in the national rankings after reaching the finals of last week's SoCal Invitational, defeating Santa Clara (16-8), Pacific (11-9) and previously No. 2 UCLA (8-4), before falling to Stanford, 10-9 in overtime in the title match. Cal has outscored its opponents, 172-71, this season and leads the MPSF with 13.23 goals per game. Defensively, the Bears are second in the league with 5.46 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. 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 Justin 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.
Cal's 2011 Scenerio/Returning Standouts:
Rackov leads the MPSF with 41 goals in 12 matches (3.42 gpg), including seven goals last week. Luka Saponjic is second on the team with 25 goals (sixth in MPSF, 2.08 gpg), while his brother, Aleksa, is now third with 12 goals in 10 matches...in 2011, the Bears look to avenge last year's 12-10 overtime loss to USC in the NCAA finals and 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 nation...in 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 90 saves in 10 matches, with 39 saves last week at the SoCal Invite...Cal hosts the NCAA Tournament again this season, Dec. 3-4 at Spieker Aquatics Complex...
Noting UCLA, Long Beach State and UC San Diego:
No. 3 UCLA (10-2), third in last week's SoCal Invite, is coached by Adam Wright (third year) and led by junior Josh Samuels with 18 goals in 10 matches. Last year the Bears were 2-0 versus the Bruins, including a 10-9 win in the third place match of the MPSF Tournament. No. 14 Long Beach State (coached by former Cal All-American, 1992-93, and Olympian Gavin Arroyo, fifth year) are 11-3, led by senior Alex Petrovic's 22 goals, and were 2-2 (13th) at the SoCal Invite. No. 9 UC San Diego (11-3) is coached by Denny Harper (31st year) and led by senior Graham Saber with 47 goals. The Tritons placed ninth at the SoCal Invite.
Head Coach Kirk Everist:
A 2004 inductee into the Cal Athletic Hall of Fame, Kirk Everist is in his 10th year with a 213-60 mark (.780), 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 NCAA.com Interview.