Bears In SoCal
LOS ANGELES - The No. 2 California men's water polo team will continue the 2021 campaign on the road at USC this weekend, matching up against fellow CWPA Top-2 squads and MPSF foes UCLA, USC and Stanford at Uytengsu Aquatics Center in Los Angeles. The Bears will take on No. 2(T) UCLA at 1:30 p.m. and No. 2(T) USC at 7 p.m. on Saturday. They'll close the weekend against No. 1 Stanford on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. Live streams and stats will be available for all games.
The Bears will face the Bruins for a third time this season after splitting two matches in the opening weekend of action in Berkeley. The Bruins enter the weekend with a 3-2 record, having split two matches with USC opening weekend and taking down No. 5 Pepperdine in a nonconference match last week. UCLA returned four of its top-five scorers from 2019 including a pair of All-Americans, Jake Cavano and Tommy Gruwell. Freshmen Mo Kenney and Tanner Pulice have already made an impact for the Bruins. Kenney made his collegiate debut vs. Pepperdine and scored a game-high five goals on six shots, while Pulice finished with four points in the 15-9 win.
The Trojans head into the weekend with a 2-2 record after splitting matches with the Bears and UCLA in the first weekend of the season. Jacob Mercep scored 15 goals for the Trojans in the first four matches. Goalkeeper Nic Porter collected double-digit saves in each of the four games, with a career-high 20 saves in the loss against Cal on Jan. 24. The Trojans are averaging 9.6 goals per game.
The No. 1 Cardinal will be starting its season this weekend at USC. In 2019, Stanford finished 21-2 and captured its 12th national championship. The Cardinal also repeated as MPSF champions. Tyler Abramson is Stanford's leading returning scorer, producing a team-high 98 points in 2019. AJ Rossman and Quinn Woodhead each finished last year with 20+ goals, while goalkeeper Andrew Chun finished the season with 211 saves to earn ACWPC All-American honorable mention honors.
LAST TIME OUT
The Bears finished opening weekend 2-2, splitting a pair of matches with UCLA and USC, respectively. Several players set or tied career highs, including Nikolaos Papanikolaou, who tied his career-best of five goals in the Jan. 24 win over USC.
BETWEEN THE PIPES
Sophomore Adrian Weinberg and junior Anthony Rethans split time in the cage during the first weekend of action, each playing two games for the Bears. Rethans had a career-high 12 saves in a 10-7 loss to UCLA on Jan. 24 and added two steals. Weinberg had a 14-save performance in the win over USC and notched an additional three steals in the effort.
Senior 2-Meter Nikkos Delgrammatikas will serve as team captain for the Bears this year as voted on by his teammates. Hailing from Athens, Greece, Delgrammatikas finished the first weekend with two goals.
Center Nikolaos Papanikolaou is off to an impressive start to his sophomore campaign after emerging as one of the nation's top young players in 2019. The native of Athens, Greece totaled nine goals in the first four games while adding four steals over the contest. His career-high five goals in the Sunday match vs. USC led the Bears in the victory over the No. 1 team in the CWPA Top 20.
Newcomers have already played a big role for Cal. Hawai'i native Alika Naone has scored six goals for the Bears, the third-most of anyone on the team, while also contributing three steals. Fellow freshman George Avakian, a Los Angeles native, totaled three goals on six shots during the first four games.
FOLLOW THE ACTION
All of Cal's matches will be streamed on Pac12.com/Live/USC. Fans can also follow along with live stats for each game as posted on the schedule.
Fans can receive additional in-game updates and behind-the-scenes information all season long by following the Bears' social media accounts (Twitter: @CalWaterPolo, Instagram: @CalMWaterPolo).