Nov. 19, 2011
STANFORD, CALIF. -Led by three goals apiece from freshman Aleksa Saponjic and sophomore Collin Smith, plus a stifling defense, the No. 3-ranked Cal men's water polo team captured the Steve Heaston Trophy for the second year in a row with an 11-4 win at No. 4 Stanford in the annual Big Splash. With the victory, the Golden Bears, now 20-3 overall and 7-1 in league play, secured a No. 2 seeding for next week's Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Tournament. Cal will open the MPSF Tournament versus UC Irvine on Friday, Nov. 25 at 11:30 a.m. at UCLA's Spieker Aquatics Center.
The Bears were bolstered by outstanding goalie play from junior Justin Parsons, who finished with 15 saves and had four steals. Besides the three goals from Saponjic and Smith; seniors Ivan Rackov, Luka Saponjic and Charlie Steffens scored along with junior Marin Balarin and sophomore Perry Short. Rackov, the MPSF's leading scorer with 63 goals, paced the squad with five assists.
Cal was never really threatened in the Big Splash as it outscored Stanford, 4-1, after the first period and owned a 7-2 lead at halftime. The Bears had defeated the Cardinal, 8-7, Sept. 18 at the NorCal Invitational in Stockton, but lost to Stanford, 10-9 in overtime in the last meeting, Oct. 2 at the SoCal Invitational in Los Alamitos.
The win gave the Bears the Steve Heaston Trophy, named after the former Cal men's water polo coach (1989-98, three NCAA titles) who passed away in 1999, for the second year in a row (won 9-6 at Cal in 2010) and for the second time since 2004.
"This was obviously a great victory for us to win at Stanford and capture the Big Splash," said Cal coach Kirk Everist, whose team's only league loss this season was a 9-8 defeat to No. 1-ranked and defending NCAA champion USC. "Our defense was just excellent tonight. We scored 11 goals, but a lot of those goals came off our defense. Team defense was the key and J.P. (Justin Parsons) was just great in the cage. We are in a good spot, we just need to take care of business next weekend."
Next weekend the Bears travel to the MPSF Tournament looking to capture the league title and earn the automatic bid to the NCAA Championship, Dec. 3-4 at Cal's Spieker Aquatics Complex. If the Bears win their match versus the Anteaters, a team they defeated, 14-6, on Oct. 30 at Cal, they will play in the MPSF semifinals between the winner of the No. 3 (UCLA) and No. 6 seeds (Pepperdine) on Saturday, Nov. 26 at 3 p.m. If Cal captures the semifinal, it would play in the conference championship match on Sunday, Nov. 27 at 3 p.m.
Tickets and information on the NCAA tournament are available through the following links, Click here for 2011 NCAA Men's Water Polo Championship tickets Link to purchase 2011 NCAA Men's Water Polo Championship Tickets and 2011 NCAA Men's Water Polo Championship page 2011 NCAA Tournament page.
California (20-3, 7-1) 4-3-1-3 -- 11
Stanford (18-5, 5-3) 1-1-1-1 -- 4
Stanford: Smith 2, Watkins, Sefton
GOALIE SAVES - Cal: Justin Parsons 15