1996 in Review
There was no NCAA Championship for the 1996 California men's water polo team as the No. 4 ranked Golden Bears placed third at the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Tournament held Nov. 28-Dec. 1 at Spieker Aquatics Complex.
Host Cal captured the tournament's third place spot by defeating Pacific, 10-7. In the third place match, the Bears were led by sophomore Brad Kittredge's three goals, and two goals apiece from sophomore Ryan Flynn and senior Riki Krumins. Cal finish the '96 season 15-7 and failed to qualify for the NCAA Championship for the first time since the 1985 season (when Cal was 14-9). The 1996 season is the second year the NCAA Water Polo Tournament has gone from a eight-team to a four-team tournament, so in order for the Bears to go to the NCAAs, they would have needed to win the MPSF Tournament.
"We were good enough to play in the NCAAs this year. We were good enough to win if we played well," said head coach Steve Heaston. "It's difficult because we know we were talented enough to be there, we just didn't play well enough on a given day. But that's sports; you've got to be good when it counts."
No. 5 seeded Cal opened the MPSF Tournament by defeating the tournament's No. 4 seeded team, UC Irvine, 10-8. In the UC Irvine match, the Bears were led by Kittredge and junior captain Peter Stern, with three goals apiece. Cal never trailed in the match, but the Anteaters' Robert Allaire sanked a two-point shot with 1:20 left in the match to get his team within two points, but the Bears were able to hold on to set up a semifinal match versus Bay Area rival Stanford.
In the semifinals, Stanford jumped out to a 6-2 lead with 4:24 in the second period, but Cal came fighting back and got within 6-5 on a shot by junior captain Brent Albright with 4:13 left in the fourth period. David Hay's two-pointer gave the Cardinal a 8-5 cushion, and although Ryan Flynn and Peter Stern scored for the Bears to get within 8-7, Arturo Rodelo was able to put the match away for Stanford when he scored with 21 seconds left in the contest for the 9-7 Cardinal win.
Although Cal did not make it to the NCAAs in 1996, the future still looks bright as the Bears only lost two seniors, Baran Dilaver and Riki Krumins, to graduation. Dilaver and Krumins were key performers, however. Dilaver was second on the team in scoring this season with 34 goals and ended his career with 76 points. Krumins scored 16 goals in '96 and finished with 49 goals in his career. Kittredge had six goals during the MPSF Tournament was Cal's leading scorer this season with 38 points.
In 1996, Albright earned first team All-America honors, while Stern was a third team All-American and Kittredge earned honorable mention All-America accolades. Albright and Kittredge were also second team All-Mountain Pacific Sports Federation and Stern was third team All-MPSF. Ryan Flynn, Jeff Moloughney and Peter Kiefer were honorable mention all-conference selections for the Bears.