July 29, 2012
LONDON -Two members of the Cal family competing in men's water polo at the London Olympics - John Mann (2003-06) of the United States and sophomore Aleksa Saponjic of Serbia - were both on the winning side during the first round of matches Sunday (July 29) at the Water Polo Arena.
Mann's Team USA squad defeated Montenegro, 8-7, while Saponjic's Serbian team upended powerhouse Hungary, 14-10.
Nether Mann or Saponjic scored for the respective countries, but were instrumental in Sunday's wins. Mann played 7:47 for the Americans, while Saponjic played 7:28 for Serbia and recorded one steal, had one block shot and won two of three sprints he participated in.
Team USA will next play Romania on Tuesday, July 31. Romania had defeated host Great Britain, 13-4, Sunday. Serbia will next face Great Britain on Tuesday.
After an outstanding freshman campaign at Cal in which he garnered honorable mention All-America honors, Saponjic helped Serbia win the gold medal at the 2012 European Championship in January with a 9-8 win over Montenegro at Pieter van den Hoogenband Swim Stadium in Eindhoven, Netherlands.
Serbia's European Championship qualified it for the 2012 Olympics and was the country's first European title since winning the 2006 championship hosted in Belgrade, Serbia. Saponjic, 20, is from Belgrade and his older brother, Luka, was a standout for the Bears from 2008-11 and was a 2011 honorable mention All-American as well.
As a freshman at Cal in 2011, Saponjic was third on the team in scoring with 30 goals in 22 matches and tallied 22 assists and 18 steals.
Saponjic joins Mann and former women water polo players Elise Windes (2004-07) and Heather Petri (1997-99, 01), as members of the Cal family who will be competing in the water polo arena at the London Olympics. Mann is competing in his first Olympics for Team USA, while Windes was a member of the 2008 USA Olympic Team and Petri will be participating in her fourth Olympic Games for the United States.
One of the top players in school history, Mann was the first Bear to capture the Peter J. Cutino Award named after the former Cal water polo coaching legend, Peter Cutino. As a senior he led the Bears to a 31-4 record and both the NCAA and Mountain Pacific Sports Federation titles. In 2006, Mann was picked first-team All-America for the third year in a row, was first-team NCAA All-Tournament, MPSF Tournament MVP, All-MPSF first team and was Cal's Pac-10 Medalist.
During the 2006 season, Mann was the Bears' leading scorer with 80 goals in 33 matches and was instrumental in Cal's 6-5 win over USC in the MPSF Tournament final, and 7-6 victory over the Trojans in the NCAA title match. He finished his college career with 218 goals.