Dec. 1, 1997
Bears Finish 1997 Season Third at MPSF Tournament
LAST WEEK: The No. 2 ranked California men's water polo team finished the 1997 season 22-6 overall and 7-1 in Mountain Pacific Sports Federation play. Cal fell to No. 3 ranked Stanford, 5-4, in the semifinals of the MPSF Tournament, knocking the Bears out of a chance to go to the NCAA Tournament for the second season in a row. The Bears had defeated No. 8 ranked UC Santa Barbara, 11-7, in the opening round and was able to defeat No. 1 ranked Pepperdine in the third-place match. The loss to Stanford came on a Cardinal score with two seconds left in the match to break a 4-4 tie. What hurt Cal more than the loss to Stanford was top-ranked Pepperdine being upset by USC, 10-9, in the other semifinal match. USC went on to defeat Stanford, 5-4, for the conference championship and Pepperdine was selected for the at-large berth to the NCAAs. In the Bears last regular season match, they had upset then No. 2 ranked Stanford, 7-6 in the Big Splash, Nov. 22 at deGuerre Pool on the Stanford campus. In the '90s, Cal leads the series versus the Cardinal 21-9, including defeating Stanford in the 1990 (8-7) and 1992 (12-11 in sudden death overtime) NCAA title match. Cal's only league loss in '97 came to No. 1 ranked Pepperdine, 6-4, Oct. 11 at Pepperdine. This is the first time the Bears have failed to make the make the NCAA Championship for two consecutive years since the 1970-72 seasons when the NCAA prohibited Cal from competing in any postseason competition. The NCAA went to a four-team NCAA Water Polo National Championship format in 1995, with Cal falling to UCLA, 10-8, in the title match.
HEAD COACH STEVE HEASTON: Steve Heaston concludes his ninth year as Cal's head coach with a 211-45 (.824) career record and three national titles ('90, '91, '92). Heaston has guided the Bears to NCAA titles in 1990, '91 and '92 and has been named NCAA Coach of the Year twice ('90 and '92). Cal's victory over UMass on Oct. 17 of this season was Heaston's 200th career victory.
BEAR NOTES: In the victory over UC Santa Barbara, the Bears were led by three goals from Junior Phinney Gardner (San Clemente, CA) and two points apiece from junior Brad Kittredge (Santa Barbara, CA), junior Ryan Flynn (Los Angeles, CA), sophomore Albert Won (Crenshaw, CA) and senior Peter Stern (Lafayette, CA). The score was tied, 6-6, after three quarters, but Gardner was able to dominate, scoring all three of his goals in the fourth quarter. Against Stanford, the Bears had a 3-2 lead going into the fourth period but were outscored 3-1 in the final seven minutes. Kittredge was the leading scorer for Cal with two goals. With 1:25 left in the match, freshman Eldad Hazor (Tivon, Israel) tied the match at 4-4 for the Bears and the contest looked like it was going into overtime. But, Stanford had the ball with 15 seconds left and scored with two seconds on the clock. In the third-place match versus No. 1 Pepperdine, seven different Cal players scored, with three-time All-American Brent Albright (Lompoc, CA), in his last collegiate match, leading the Bears with two goals. Cal showed outstanding depth this season with nine different players having scored 15 or more goals. Gardner and Albright led Cal in scoring with 40 and 39 points, respectively. Albright, a three-time All-American and the Sept. 29 MPSF Player of the Week, was a clutch player. He made a four-meter penalty shot in overtime for the 9-8 win at UCLA Oct. 25, and also led Cal to two victories over USC. Albright scored with nine second left against the Trojans Oct. 12 in Los Angeles to send the match into overtime (Cal won 10-8), and he scored the match-winning goal with 1:19 left to break a 8-8 tie and lead the Bears to their first victory over the Trojans since 1995 Sept. 27 at DVC. Albright finished with 178 career points. Another Cal player who earned MPSF Player of the Week honors was Kittredge (Nov. 24), who received the honor after scoring three goals in the Bears 7-6 victory at Stanford in the Big Splash, including the match-winning goal with 4:11 left in the contest. Cal graduates five seniors this season--Albright, Stern (78 career points), Ramsey Ross (16 career points), Ryan Begin (four career points), Jeff Moloughney (59 career points) and Brian Cordori (one career point).
NOTING CAL WATER POLO: Since the first NCAA water polo championship in 1969, the Bears have been in the national title match 17 of the 28 years, winning 11 national championships (1973-75, '77, '83-'84, '87-'88, '90, '91, '92). Cal has won 33 conference championships and have had five NCAA Coaches of the Year, 13 Collegiate Players of the Year, 11 Conference Players of the Year, 134 All-Americans and 21 Olympians.