Nov. 27, 2009
LOS ANGELES, CALIF. -The No. 3-ranked Cal men's water polo team battled back from a 3-1 halftime deficit by outscoring No. 6-ranked UC Irvine, 5-2 in the final two periods on the way to a 6-5 victory over the Anteaters in the first round of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, Friday, Nov. 27 at the McDonald's Swim Stadium in Los Angeles (USC campus). The Golden Bears, who were led by sophomore standout Ivan Rackov's two goals and sophomore goalie Wil Toppen's 13 saves, improved to 21-5, while UC Irvine dropped to 15-12. Cal will next play No. 2-ranked Stanford (21-2), an 11-7 winner over UC Santa Barbara in another opening round match, in the MPSF Tournament semifinal on Saturday, Nov. 28 at 2:30 p.m.
The Bears are 1-2 against the Cardinal this season and have given Stanford one of its two losses on the year. The Cardinal upended Cal, 8-6, in the Nov. 21 Big Splash at Stanford, but the Bears defeated their Bay Area rival, 10-8, Oct. 11 in the semifinals of the UC Irvine Invitational. The other match between the two schools was an 8-7 Cardinal win Sept. 20 in the semifinal of the NorCal Open at Stanford.
Cal's other three losses this season have come against No. 1-ranked USC. The Trojans are the defending NCAA champions, having defeated Stanford (7-5) in the 2008 title match, but Cal topped USC in both the 2006 (7-6) and 2007 (8-6) NCAA championship.
Besides Rackov's two goals, other scorers for the Bears were senior captain Spencer Warden and sophomores Luka Saponjic, Cory Nasoff and Charlie Steffens. Warden also paced Cal with four steals has now notched 134 goals in 110 career matches, while Rackov is Cal's leading scorer this season with 51 goals in 26 matches.
"Our defense really bailed us out today," said Cal coach Kirk Everist. "We just could not finish on offense. I think we executed well but just couldn't get the ball in the goal, our team defense kept it close enough so we could pull it out."
UC Irvine 3 - 0 - 0 - 2 = 5 California 1 - 0 - 2 - 3 = 6