Fri.-Sun., Sept. 7-9 at Princeton Invitational, DeNunzio Pool, Princeton, N.J. All Day
The 2012 California squad, featuring 2012 Olympian Aleksa Saponjic and ranked third in both the CWPA and the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Preseason Polls, travels to Princeton, N.J. for the season-opening Princeton Invitational. On Friday, (Sept. 7) Cal faces No. 18 St. Francis at 1 p.m. (ET) and host No. 12 ranked Princeton at 6 p.m. (ET) for a live telecast on ESPNU (play-by-play Trey Bender, color analyst Greg Mescall). The rest of the Golden Bears' schedule at Princeton includes Harvard (11:45 a.m. ET) and Bucknell (7:15 p.m. ET) on Saturday and MIT (9:45 a.m. ET) Sunday. The match versus Princeton is believed to be the first regular-season water polo match televised in Cal water polo history. The last time the Bears competed in a tournament in the East Coast was the 2009 Navy Invitational in which Cal went 4-0 and outscored its opponents, 75-19. Along with Saponjic, who won a bronze medal as a member of the Serbian National Team in London and was a 2011 honorable mention All-American, the Bears return two other All-Americans from the 2011 squad that finished 22-4 overall and 7-1 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation. Senior team captain Justin Parsons was a second-team All-American and has been the Bears' starting goalie the past two years, owning 473 career saves. Junior attacker Collin Smith was a 2011 honorable mention All-American, scoring 26 goals with 20 steals and 28 assists, nailing match-winning goals in Cal's MPSF victories against UC Santa Barbara and Pacific.
Saponjic's Olympic Experience:
Cal sophomore attacker Aleksa Saponjic helped his native Serbia to a 12-11 victory over Montenegro in the bronze medal match of the London Olympics on Aug. 12. Saponjic became the first Bear to win an Olympic medal in men's water polo since Kevin Robertson and assistant coach Steve Heaston were members of the USA team that won a silver medal at the 1988 Seoul Olympics. Saponjic, who as a freshman was an honorable mention All-American for Kirk Everist's Bears, helped Serbia to a 6-1-1 record in London. In the bronze medal match, Saponjic, the second youngest player on the Serbian national team at 20, played more than eight minutes, recording a steal and winning the sprint to lead off the second and third quarters. For the entire Olympics, Saponjic notched a goal in Serbia's 21-7 win over host Great Britain back on July 31, and ended up winning seven sprints with four steals, two block shots and one assist.
Cal's 2012 Scenario:
In 2012, the Bears will look to avenge last year's 7-6 overtime loss to UCLA in the MPSF semifinals that knocked them out of the 2011 NCAA Tournament...of Cal's four losses last season (22-4), all were by one goal, including a 9-8 in sudden death overtime to four-time defending NCAA champion USC at Cal...in the last two years, the Bears have gone 15-1 in MPSF league play and were national runners-up in 2010...Cal has won more collegiate titles (13) than any other team in the nation, last upending USC for the 2006 (8-7) and 2007 (8-6) NCAA titles...the Bears will be televised four times during the regular season with two matches on ESPNU (Sept. 7 at Princeton, 6 p.m. ET; and Sept. 23 at USC, 1 p.m.) and two matches on the Pac-12 Networks (UCLA on Oct. 6, TBA; and Stanford, Oct. 20, TBA, at Spieker Aquatics Complex).
Noting Top Princeton Invite Opponents:
No. 18 St. Francis (1-1) is coached by Igor Samardzija (4th year) and led by senior Marko Gencic with four goals. No. 12 Princeton, coached by Luis Nicolao (15th year), opens Friday versus Cal Lutheran before hosting Cal. The Tigers are led by sophomore Drew Hoffenberg, who had 47 goals in 2011. Both St. Francis and Princeton competed in the NCAAs at Cal's Spieker Aquatics Complex, with St. Francis playing in 2010 (0-2) and Princeton in 2011 (1-1).
Head Coach Kirk Everist:
A 2004 inductee into the Cal Athletic Hall of Fame, Kirk Everist is in his 11th year with a 227-63 mark (.783), leading the Bears to NCAA titles in 2006 and 2007, and MPSF crowns in 2002 and 2006. He was the 2006 NCAA Coach of the Year and 2002 MPSF Coach of the Year. A 1990 Cal graduate, Everist led the Bears to NCAA titles in 1987 and 1988, earning All-American status three straight seasons (1986-88) and NCAA Player of the Year honors in 1988. He played for the USA National Team for nine years (1988-96)and competed in the 1992 and 1996 Olympic Games.
INDIVIDUAL CAL PLAYER NOTES:
8 Marin Balarin:
Senior attacker and team captain had 19 goals in 25 matches last season with six assists, 11 steals, a field block and 28 ejections earned...was selected the recipient of the Peter J. Cutino Award as the team's most improved player and was 2011 ACWPC and MPSF All-Academic...scored goals against UC Irvine and Stanford in the 2011 MPSF Tournament...notched a team-high four goals Oct. 1 versus Santa Clara at the SoCal Tournament, had two goals in an Oct. 30 MPSF match versus UC Irvine and a goal versus Stanford in the Nov. 19 Big Splash...has 27 career goals.
3 Max Bergeson:
Left-handed sophomore attacker who redshirted during the 2011 season after contributing as a freshma in 2010...had 15 goals in 24 matches with 14 assists, 13 steals, six field blocks and an ejection earned in 2010, including scoring two key goals against Loyola Marymount in the NCAA Tournament semifinal...notched two goals in the Bears' 2010 MPSF league victory over then-No. 2-ranked UCLA Oct. 9 and three goals in an MPSF match at Pepperdine.
14 Giacomo Cupido:
Junior defender/utility played in 25 matches with 36 steals, 25 assists, 10 goals, eight field blocks and five ejections earned last season...was 2011 ACWPC and MPSF All-Academic...had a goal against UCLA and two goals against Stanford in the 2011 MPSF Tournament...scored a goal against USC in the Oct. 15 MPSF match at Cal and a goal in a 9-8 MPSF win over Pacific Nov. 11 at Cal...has 19 career goals...is from Santa Margherita Ligure, Genova, Italy.
9 Hunter Gettelfinger:
Junior attacker played in 24 matches last season with 28 steals, 16 assists, eight ejections earned, a team-high 10 field blocks and 12 goals...was 2011 ACWPC and MPSF All-Academic...scored goals in 2011 MPSF matches versus USC, Long Beach State, Pepperdine and UC Irvine...has 26 career goals.
13 Luka Ivanovic:
Sophomore attacker had seven goals in 25 matches with 15 steals, two assists and six field blocks in 2011... was 2011 ACWPC All-Academic...scored two goals in an MPSF win at Long Beach State and a goal against UC Irvine in an Oct. 30 victory at Cal...is from Podgorica, Montenegro.
2 Blake Kelly:
Sophomore defender/utility played in 25 matches last season with 20 steals, four assists, 11 goals, five field blocks and five ejections earned...was 2011 ACWPC and MPSF All-Academic...had a goal against UC Irvine in the first round of the 2011 MPSF Tournament...scored goals in MPSF victories Oct. 7 at UCLA and Oct. 21 versus Pepperdine at Cal.
1 Justin Parsons:
Senior goalie and team captain had 206 saves in 23 matches (705 minutes of action, 9.0 saves per match) last season, earning second-team All-America honors...was also second-team All-MPSF and was selected 2011 Team MVP...notched 22 saves during the 2011 MPSF Tournament...had a top match Nov. 19 at Stanford in the Big Splash, collecting 15 saves with four steals...was named the Oct. 10 MPSF Player of the Week, recording 11 saves in an 8-5 win at No. 3 UCLA, 10 saves in a 14-6 win at Long Beach State and had five saves in two quarters in an 18-8 victory at No. 9 UC San Diego...was a 2010 third-team ACWPC All-American and second-team All-MPSF...has 473 saves in 57 career matches.
11 Aleksa Saponjic:
Sophomore attacker was third on the 2011 squad with 30 goals in 22 matches with 22 assists, 18 steals, nine ejections earned and six field blocks...earned 2011 honorable mention All-America honors as a freshman and helped his native Serbia to a bronze medal at the 2012 London Olympics...was also a 2011 ACWPC All-Academic selection...notched two goals against Stanford in the 2011 MPSF Tournament...led the Bears with three goals in the Nov. 19 Big Splash at Stanford...scored in all eight MPSF matches with a team-high three goals at Long Beach State and two goals apiece versus UC Irvine and USC...from Belgrade, Serbia and a member of Serbian National Team that won the gold medal at the World University Games in the summer of 2011 along with older brother Luka, a standout at Cal from 2008-11.
5 Perry Short:
A left-handed junior attacker from Cottesloe, Australia...played in 21 matches with nine goals, eight steals, 13 assists and two ejections earned last season... was a 2011 MPSF All-Academic selection...scored a goal in the Nov. 19 Big Splash at Stanford and tallied two goals in the Nov. 12 match at UC Davis...has 20 career goals.
7 Collin Smith:
Sophomore attacker played in 22 matches with 26 goals, 20 steals, 28 assists, nine ejections earned and four field blocks, earning 2011 honorable mention All-America honors...scored three goals during the 2011 MPSF Tournament...nailed the match-winning goals in the Bears' MPSF victories at UC Santa Barbara and versus Pacific...also notched a team-high three goals versus Stanford during the Nov. 19 Big Splash...has 42 career goals.