Oct. 5, 2010
BERKELEY -Sat., Oct. 9 UCLA, Spieker Aquatics Complex, Berkeley, Calif. 10 a.m.
Bear Bites: In one of the country's biggest water polo matches of 2010, Cal hosts UCLA in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation league opener for both teams, Saturday, Oct. 9 at 10 a.m. at Spieker Aquatics Complex. The Golden Bears entertain a Bruins squad whose only two losses have been to top-ranked USC (11-10 in the finals of the NorCal Invitational at Cal, and 9-8 last weekend at the SoCal Invitational at UCLA). Cal, whose two losses have been to USC (12-11) in the semifinals of the NorCal Invite and to UC Irvine (9-8) in the SoCal Invite second round, will be looking to avenge last season's loss to the Bruins in the 2009 MPSF Tournament final (10-7), which knocked the Bears out of the NCAA Tournament.
Top Cal Performers: Junior attacker Ivan Rackov was impressive last weekend at the SoCal Invitational, notching 15 goals in four matches, and is leading the MPSF with 3.00 goals per game. Rackov has tallied 33 goals in 11 matches and now owns 119 career goals. He also paces the Bears with 30 steals and 28 assists, including 10 steals and seven assists at the SoCal Invite. Another junior who played well in Los Angeles was Luka Saponjic, who along with Rackov is a native of Belgrade, Serbia. Saponjic had nine goals in the four SoCal matches and joined Rackov with four goals apiece in the Bears' 13-9 victory over Stanford in the SoCal fifth-place match. He is now second on the team with 19 goals. Another key performer last weekend was sophomore goalie Justin Parsons, who played the entire 128 minutes of the tournament and finished with 33 saves, including 12 saves in the final match versus Stanford. Senior Zach White contributed 10 ejections earned at the SoCal Invite and is the Bears' leader with 18 ejections earned on the season. Junior Cory Nasoff added five goals, five assists and five ejections earned over the weekend, and along with White, is third on the team with 17 goals.
Bears Mix Veterans With Newcomers: Cal features four returning All-Americans, seniors Brian Dudley and White, and juniors Rackov and Nasoff. Other top veterans are junior Charlie Steffens and Saponjic, plus goalies Parsons and junior Wil Toppen (junior). Dudley and White were freshmen when Cal defeated USC, 8-6, for the 2007 NCAA title...co-captain Dudley was a 2009 honorable mention All-American and is a top student-athlete, earning a 4.0 GPA in the Haas School of Business...White played in all 32 matches in Cal's 2007 title year and was a third-team All-American in 2009 (37 goals, 39 ejections earned)...Rackov was a 2009 third-team All-American as well, leading Cal with 55 goals...Nasoff shined last season, notching 27 goals and was an honorable mention All-American...co-captain Steffens earned a 4.0 GPA in ethnic studies and tallied 24 goals and a team-best 44 assists in 2009...Saponjic, a member of the Serbian National Team, scored 25 goals and led the Bears with four goals in their 12-11 overtime win over Stanford in the 2009 MPSF Tournament semifinal...Toppen was outstanding as a sophomore with 155 saves...combined with the veterans, Cal has had strong contributions from freshmen Collin Smith (9 goals, 8 assists), Giacomo Cupido (20 steals, 5 goals), Max Bergeson (11 assists, 7 goals) and Perry Short (9 goals, 13 steals) this season.
Noting UCLA: UCLA, coached by Adam Wright (second year), is 8-2 and last Sunday fell to USC, 9-8, in the championship match of the SoCal Invitational at UCLA's Spieker Aquatics Center. The Bruins only other loss was 11-10 to the Trojans in the finals of the NorCal Invitational, Sept. 19 at Cal. UCLA's top scorer is senior Ben Hohl with 20 goals in nine matches (sixth in the MPSF with 2.22 goals per game). Last season, the Bruins finished 23-7, won the MPSF Tournament with a 10-7 win over Cal and lost in the national championship match, 6-5, to USC. In the 2010 preseason poll, the Bears were the No. 1 ranked team and the Bruins were ranked No. 2.
Head Coach Kirk Everist: A 2004 inductee into the Cal Athletic Hall of Fame, Kirk Everist is in his ninth year with a 191-57 mark (.770), leading the Bears to NCAA titles in 2006 and 2007, and MPSF crowns in 2002 and 2006. He was the 2006 NCAA Coach of the Year and 2002 MPSF Coach of the Year. A 1990 Cal graduate, Everist led the Bears to NCAA titles in 1987 and 1988, earning All-American status three straight seasons (1986-88) and NCAA Player of the Year honors in 1988. He played for the USA National Team for nine years (1988-96)and competed in the 1992 and 1996 Olympic Games.