Aug. 8, 2012
LONDON -Cal sophomore Aleksa Saponjic's Serbian squad has put itself in position for a medal at the 2012 Olympics, defeating Australia, 11-8, Wednesday (Aug. 8) in the quarterfinals of the men's water polo competition at the Olympic Park Water Polo Arena. Saponjic, who will be a sophomore on Kirk Everist's Golden Bears' team this fall, helped Serbia improve its record to 5-0-1 in London. Serbia will next face Italy, an 11-9 winner over Hungary, on Friday (Aug. 10) in the semifinals. If Serbia tops Italy, it would play the winner of Croatia-Montenegro for the Olympic gold medal.
Meanwhile, Cal alum John Mann's (2003-06) USA squad fell to undefeated Croatia (6-0), 8-2, in another quarterfinal contest. Mann saw 4:44 minutes of action in the match. The Americans will next play Spain on Friday in a battle for a fifth-place Olympic finish. If Team USA tops Spain, it would play the winner of Hungary-Australia for fifth place in the tournament.
Mann has tallied three goals in the Olympics - versus Romania, Great Britain and Hungary. Saponjic notched a goal in Serbia's 21-7 win over host Great Britain back on July 31.
Mann helped the Golden Bears to the 2006 NCAA title and was the recipient of the Peter J. Cutino Award as the nation's top collegiate player. Saponjic was a 2011 honorable mention All-American as a freshman for Cal. Saponjic and Mann are the first Cal Olympic men's water polo players since four Bears - Gavin Arroyo, Chris Humbert, Sean Nolan and Chris Oeding - were members of the 2000 United States National Team at the Sydney Games.
Saponjic is looking to become the first Bear to win an Olympic medal in men's water polo since Kevin Robertson and assistant coach Steve Heaston were members of the USA team that won a silver medal at the 1988 Seoul Olympics.