Jan. 13, 2012
BERKELEY - Aleksa Saponjic, who as a freshman was third on the 2011 Cal men's water polo team in scoring with 30 goals in 22 matches and tallied 22 assists and 18 steals, has been selected to compete for Serbia at the prestigious 2012 European Championship, Jan. 16-29 in Eindhoven, Netherlands.
Saponjic, from Belgrade, Serbia, was one of 13 players selected from his national team after competing at the Samartzidis Cup, Jan. 9-11 on the Island of Chios, Greece against teams from Montenegro, Spain and Greece in a warm up to the European Championship. Saponjic, 19, will be the youngest member of the Serbian National Team when it opens the European Championship Jan. 16 versus Spain.
Aleksa Saponjic is used to high level international competition. Along with his brother Luka (senior this past fall at Cal), he was a member of the Serbian National Team that captured the gold medal at the 2011 World University Games in Shenzen, China, finishing with six goals and a team-high nine assists during the tournament. Aleksa Saponjic also helped Serbia to a gold medal at the 2011 World Junior Championships in Volos, Greece.
"This is very exciting for Aleksa and a great accomplishment," said Cal coach Kirk Everist, a member of the United States 1992 and 1996 Olympic teams. "The European Championships are one of, if not the, toughest water polo competition in the world. He had a fantastic summer winning gold medals at both the U20 World Championships and World University Games. He also had a great first year here at Cal. Aleksa worked very hard during the season and we are all very proud that he was prepared to compete and win a position on the Serbian Senior National Team for Europeans."
The Cal men's water polo team finished the 2011 season 22-4 over all and 7-1 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation. The Bears' 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. Cal 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.