Sept. 19, 2010
BERKELEY -Paced by three goals apiece from juniors Cory Nasoff and Ivan Rackov, and 12 saves from junior goalie Wil Toppen, the Cal men's water polo team topped Bay Area rival Stanford, 11-8, to finish third at the 2010 NorCal Invitational, Sunday, Sept. 19 at Spieker Aquatics Complex.
The Golden Bears (5-1) had earlier fallen to two-time defending national champion USC, 12-11, in Sunday morning's semifinal. The Trojans went on to defeat UCLA, 11-10, for the NorCal Invitational title.
Cal had done a nice job of recovering from the tough loss to USC, jumping out to a 3-1 lead over the Cardinal in the first period on goals by senior captain Brian Dudley and a pair of goals by Nasoff. The Bears extended their lead to 5-1 with goals by Rackov and freshman Perry Short to start the second period, but Stanford eventually battled back and a goal by Sage Wright with 5:26 in the third period tied the contest, 6-6.
However, Cal was able to dominate the rest of the way, outscoring the Cardinal, 5-2, on a goal from freshman Collin Smith, two more goals from Rackov and another goal by Short and Nasoff.
Earlier in the day the Bears saw an impressive comeback fall just short, losing to USC, 12-11, in the semifinals Cal had trailed USC, 10-5, early in the third period, but were able to rattle off five straight goals to even the score, 10-10, entering the final quarter.
The Bears were able to get back into the match against the Trojans by a pressuring defense that led to several counterattack goals and some solid goalkeeping from Toppen (eight saves). Junior Luka Saponjic had two impressive scores in Cal's comeback, knocking down a long shot with 3:57 left in the third period and then had a phenomenal backhand shot with 2:29 left in the period to get the Bears within 10-9. Finally Rackov was able to tie the match at 10 with a counterattack goal with 1:46 left in the third quarter.
The Trojans were able to take back control of the match in the beginning of the fourth period on a five meter penalty shot by Nikola Vavic and a 6-on-5 goal by Peter Kurzeka with 5:52 left in the contest. Cal was able to again mount a comeback when Short scored a counterattack goal with 1:31 in the match. The Bears had set up for a final attempt to send the match into overtime when they called a timeout with 10 seconds left in the contest, but Nasoff's tip attempt was blocked by USC goalie Joel Dennerley with six seconds remaining and the Trojans were able to run out the clock for the win.
"After having a rough first half against USC, we were able to come back and have six really good quarters," said Cal coach Kirk Everist. "I thought the team played with a lot of heart and I am proud of them. After having seen this type of strong competition over the weekend, we now have a better feel for where we are at."
On Saturday, Cal had defeated Pomona-Pitzer, 17-8, and Pepperdine, 15-6, to advance to Sunday's semifinals.
2010 NORCAL INVITATIONAL