Sat, Sept. 21 vs. Air Force/TBA, Spieker Aquatics, Berkeley, Calif. 10:50 a.m./TBA
Sun, Sept. 22 NorCal Invitational, Spieker Aquatics, Berkeley, Calif. TBA
Bear Bites: No. 3-ranked Cal (4-0), featuring 2012 first-team All-American Collin Smith and 2012 Olympian Aleksa Saponjic, hosts the 2013 NorCal Invitational, Sept. 21-22 at Spieker Aquatics Complex and Diablo Valley College, taking on Air Force at 10:50 a.m. Saturday. The Golden Bears were dominating in their season-opening Triton Invitational Sept. 7-8 in San Diego, defeating Redlands, 21-3, host No. 11 UC San Diego, 13-10, No. 13 Loyola Marymount, 17-7, and No. 17 UC Davis, 15-4, to outscore their opponents, 66-24. Along with Smith, who led Cal with 61 goals and 31 steals last season, and Saponjic, who won a bronze medal as a member of the Serbian National Team in London and was a 2012 second-team All-American, the Bears also return three honorable mention All-Americans from the 2012 squad that finished 17-8 overall (5-3 in the MPSF) and were runners-up to national champion USC at the MPSF Tournament. Senior Hunter Gettelfinger notched 20 goals and was a top defender with a team-high 46 steals in 2012. Junior goalie Jon Sibley had 110 saves in 12 matches, including 12 saves in his first collegiate match against top-ranked USC, while sophomore Colin Mulcahy tallied 25 goals in 25 matches and was second on the squad with 29 ejections earned as a redshirt freshman.
Smith Standout: Cal senior attacker Collin Smith was stellar last season, leading the Bears in both scoring and assists, while also tallying 31 steals, 11 ejections earned and 10 field blocks. Smith, who was elected 2013 team captain by his teammates, has been a major contributor for Cal ever since his freshman year in 2010 and was a 2011 honorable mention All-American. He joins fellow senior Giacomo Cupido as the only two Bears on the current squad who competed in the 2010 national title match in which Cal dropped a 12-10 overtime decision to USC. Smith currently has 111 career goals, 75 assists, 75 steals, 25 ejections earned and 21 field blocks.
About the NorCal Invitational: The NorCal Invitational features 16 teams, including all nine teams from the MPSF. Brackets B and C will play Saturday’s matches at Cal, while Brackets A and D compete at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill. Bracket A consists of No. 1 seed USC, No. 8 Pepperdine, No. 9 UC Irvine and DVC. Bracket B includes No. 2 seed UCLA, No. 7 UC Santa Barbara, No. 10 UC San Diego and No. 15 Concordia. Bracket C has No. 3 seed Cal, No. 6 Long Beach State, No. 11 Loyola Marymount and No. 14 Air Force. Bracket D features No. 4 Pacific, No. 5 Stanford, No. 12 UC Davis and No. 13 Santa Clara. On Sept. 21, Cal plays Air Force at 10:50 a.m., and if the Bears prevail, they would play the winner of Long Beach State-Loyola Marymount at 6:15 p.m. If Cal wins both of its matches Saturday, it would play at 12:15 p.m. versus the winner of Bracket B (UCLA, UC Santa Barbara, UC San Diego, Concordia). If Cal wins that match, it plays in the tournament championship at 6:15 p.m. The Bears last captured the NorCal Invitational in 2003 when they upset then-No. 1-ranked USC in overtime in the semifinals and upended No. 2-ranked and host Stanford in sudden-death overtime. Last season at the NorCal Invite at Stanford, Cal fell to UCLA, 11-10 in overtime, in the semifinals, and 9-8 to host Stanford, in the third-place match.
Saponjic’s Olympic Experience: Cal junior attacker Aleksa Saponjic helped his native Serbia to a 12-11 victory over Montenegro in the bronze medal match of the 2012 London Olympics. Saponjic became the first Bear to win an Olympic medal in men’s water polo since Kevin Robertson and Olympic 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 2013 Scenario: In 2013, the Bears will look to continue their momentum from the 2012 campaign when they won seven of their last eight contests, including upending then-No. 2 ranked UCLA, 12-9, in the MPSF Tournament semifinal. Another highlight for Cal was dominating Stanford behind Smith’s six goals, 14-8, in the Big Splash at Spieker Aquatics Complex...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 six times on the Pac-12 Networks this season, including Nov. 9 against five-time defending national champion USC.
Head Coach Kirk Everist: A 2004 inductee into the Cal Athletic Hall of Fame, Kirk Everist is in his 12th year with a 248-71 mark (.777), 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. Everist will be joined this season by first-year assistant coach Russ Hafferkamp.