Cal Menís Water Polo Enters SoCal Invitational

Looking to establish themselves among the nation's elite, Cal (8-3, 0-1) ventures to the SoCal Invitational this weekend in Irvine.
By Cal Athletics on Wed, October 09, 2013

Sat.-Sun., Oct. 12-13    at SoCal Invite, Anteater Pool, Irvine, Calif.     All Day

Bear Bites: Looking to establish themselves among the nation’s elite, Cal (8-3, 0-1) ventures to the SoCal Invitational this weekend in Irvine. The Golden Bears will have the opportunity to face the country’s top squads, possibly battling Bay Area rival Stanford, top-ranked UCLA and defending national champion USC after opening versus UC San Diego at 12:15 p.m. Saturday (Oct. 12). Cal’s three losses this season have been to No. 1 UCLA (6-5) and No. 4 Stanford (12-10) at the NorCal Invite, and 7-6 to No. 3 Pacific last weekend. The Bears feature 2012 first-team All-American Collin Smith and 2012 Olympian Aleksa Saponjic. Smith led Cal with 61 goals and 31 steals last season, and Saponjic won a bronze medal as a member of the Serbian National Team in London and was a 2012 second-team All-American. Cal also returns 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. Earlier this season, the Bears defeated UC San Diego, 13-10, at the Triton Invite in San Diego.

About the SoCal Invitational: The SoCal Invitational has 16 teams, including all nine squads from the MPSF. Bracket A consists of No. 1 seed UCLA, No. 8 Pepperdine, No. 9 UC Irvine and No. 16 Pomona-Pitzer. Bracket B includes No. 2 seed USC, No. 7 Long Beach State, No. 10 Loyola Marymount and No. 15 St. Francis-Brooklyn. Bracket C has No. 3 seed Pacific, No. 6 UC Santa Barbara, No. 11 Concordia and No. 14 Santa Clara. Bracket D features No. 4 seed Stanford, No. 5 Cal, No. 12 UC San Diego and No. 13 UC Davis. On Oct. 21, Cal plays UC San Diego at 12:15 a.m., and if the Bears prevail, they would play the winner of Stanford-UC Davis at 4:50 p.m. If Cal wins both of its matches Saturday, it would play at 12:15 p.m. Sunday versus the winner of Bracket A (UCLA, Pepperdine, UC Irvine, Pomona-Pitzer). If Cal wins that match, it plays in the tournament championship at 6:15 p.m. Sunday. Last season at the SoCal Invitational in Santa Barbara, the Bears went 2-2, defeating Air Force (22-4), losing to UC Irvine (13-11) and Pacific (10-9 in overtime), before topping Pepperdine (12-9) in the seventh place match.

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 120 career goals, 76 assists, 79 steals, 25 ejections earned and 22 field blocks.

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 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. At the Olympics, Saponjic notched a goal 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 2012 when they won seven of their last eight contests, including upending then-No. 2 ranked UCLA, 12-9, in the MPSF Tournament semifinal. Smith leads the Bears this season with 22 goals, while Cal has outscored its opponents, 153-79. Other stat leaders include senior Cupido with 20 assists, Smith with 19 steals, Mulcahy with 13 ejections earned and five field blocks. Senior goalie Michael Boggan had a career-high 14 saves last Saturday versus Pacific. 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 252-74 mark (.773), 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. His assistant coach is Russ Hafferkamp.


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