Nov. 24, 2012
LOS ANGELES, CALIF - Led by sophomore Matt Russell's three goals and 11 saves from sophomore goalie Jon Sibley, an inspired Cal men's water polo team put itself in the championship match of the 2012 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Tournament with a 12-9 victory over No. 2-ranked UCLA Saturday (Nov. 24) in the tournament semifinal. The Golden Bears (17-7), who have won seven matches in a row, will next battled No. 1-ranked and host USC in the 3 p.m. title match Sunday at McDonald's Swim Stadium.
Cal defeated the Bruins (26-4) without its two top scorers - junior Collin Smith (61 goals) and sophomore Aleksa Saponjic (45) - who were not able to play against UCLA after being called for flagrant fouls in Friday's 11-9 win over Pepperdine. Saponjic had led the Bears with four goals against the Waves, while Smith added three goals.
Before Saturday's match, the Bruins had defeated the Bears, 11-10 in overtime Sept. 16 at the NorCal Tournament and upended Cal, 10-9 in sudden death overtime, Oct. 6 in Berkeley. UCLA had also defeated Cal, 7-6 in overtime, in last year's MPSF Tournament semifinal at UCLA to knock the Bears out of the NCAA tournament.
"The win over UCLA was an excellent team effort," said Cal coach Kirk Everist. "The team has played short-handed a lot this year but they continue to step up. Not having Aleksa (Saponjic) and Collin (Smith) was tough, yet we came out and played great. There is definitely no quit in these guys."
The Bears took control of the match early, jumping out to a 4-1 lead after the opening eight minutes and were able to maintain their advantage throughout the contest. Along with Russell's three goals, Cal showed balanced scoring with senior Mason Cox and juniors Hunter Gettelfinger and Giacomo Cupido notching two goals apiece. Cupido also had a team-high four assists, while Gettelfinger had an outstanding all around match with three assists, three steals and two ejections earned.
Now the Bears will take on the top-ranked Trojans, winners of four-straight NCAA titles, for a chance to automatically qualify for the 2012 NCAA championship, Dec. 1-2 at McDonald's Swim Stadium. Earlier this season Cal was edged by USC, 7-6, Sept. 23 in Los Angeles. The Bears were the last team to defeat the Trojans in the national title match, winning 7-6 in 2006 and 8-6 in 2007. Cal fell to USC, 12-10 in overtime, in the 2010 NCAA championship match at Spieker Aquatics Complex.
CAL 4 1 3 4 12
UCLA 1 2 2 4 9
UCLA - Samuels 3, Wendt 3, Lenhart, White, Fahlsing.
CAL - Jon Sibley 11
UCLA - Rapacz 5