Nov. 28, 2009
LOS ANGELES, CALIF. - Sophomore Luka Saponjic scored with four seconds left in the second three-minute overtime period to lift the No. 3-ranked Cal men's water polo team to a 12-11 upset of No. 2-ranked Stanford in the semifinals of the MPSF Tournament Saturday in Los Angeles. The Golden Bears (22-5) will now face No. 4-ranked UCLA, a 10-6 winner over top-ranked USC in the other semifinal, for the MPSF Tournament title and automatic NCAA berth at 3 p.m. Sunday at McDonald's Swim Stadium on the USC campus.
Cal had impressive comebacks all match long. The Bears had trailed the Cardinal, 7-2, at halftime but was able to battle back by outscoring Stanford, 8-3, in the final two periods of regulation, including 5-2 in the fourth quarter. Then in the first three-minute overtime period, the Cardinal scored first for an 11-10 advantage. However, Cal was not done. Sophomore Ivan Rackov, the Bears' leading scorer and former teammate of Saponjic on the Serbian Junior National Team, tied the contest with a goal at 1:23 left in the second three-minute overtime period, setting up Saponjic's heroics.
Cal will now have to face a UCLA squad (21-6) that upset the defending national champion Trojans, for a chance to advance to the four-team NCAA championships Dec. 4-6 in Princeton, N.J. In the only match-up between the two schools this season, the Bears upended the Bruins, 7-6, in Los Angeles.
Besides notching the match-winning goal, Saponjic paced Cal with four goals, followed by Rackov's three goals (team-high 53 goals on the year). Junior Brian Dudley added two goals and junior Zach White and sophomores Charlie Steffens and Cory Nasoff had a goal apiece.
The Bears' win over Stanford was especially sweet as the Cardinal had recently defeated Cal, 8-6, in the Nov. 21 Big Splash. The Bears have given Stanford (21-3) two of its three loses this season as the Cardinal fell to Cal, 10-8, in the UC Irvine Invitational on Oct. 11. Stanford's other loss was 12-11 to USC. On Friday, the Bears had defeated UC Irvine, 6-5, in the MPSF Tournament first round.
CAL 1 - 1 - 3 - 5 -- 0 - 2 = 12 STAN 2 - 5 - 1 - 2 -- 1 - 0 = 11