Bears Head To Los Angeles For MPSF Championships
BERKELEY - The No. 1 California men's water polo team kicks off the postseason this weekend as the Bears head to UCLA to compete in the MPSF Championships at Spieker Aquatics Center. Cal will enter the tournament as the No. 1 seed after finishing the regular season with the best record in the conference and will begin tournament play on Saturday at 11 a.m., taking on the winner of Friday's contest between USC and either Penn State Behrend or Austin College. The winner of the semifinal will proceed to the championship game Sunday at 2 p.m., and the loser will head to the third place game Sunday at 11:30 a.m. All games will be broadcast via MPSF TV, and a daily, monthly or annual subscription can be purchased at mpsports.org/watch.
The Bears enter the conference tournament with a 7-3 record and the nation's No. 1 rank for the fourth consecutive week. All seven of Cal's wins came against MPSF competition and top-four opponents, and the Bears were the only MPSF team this season to complete a weekend sweep, winning all three games at USC (Feb. 6-7).Cal will look to win their first conference title since 2006.
LAST TIME OUT
The Bears went 2-1 at Stanford's round-robin tournament two weeks ago, taking down No. 4 USC and No. 2 UCLA before dropping the closing match to No. 3 Stanford.
Sophomore attacker Nikolaos Papanikolaou and head coach Kirk Everist highlighted California's All-MPSF honors, being named the conference's Player of the Year and Coach of the Year, respectively.
Now a two-time All-MPSF First Team selection, Papanikolaou is the youngest player to be named a First Team selection this season. He joins Ben Hallock (Stanford) as the only water polo players in MPSF history, across men's and women's, to go from Newcomer of the Year and Player of the Year in consecutive seasons. Papanikolaou is Cal's fifth all-time MPSF Player of the Year.
Everist is 390-121 overall since taking over the California program in 2002. This is his second MPSF Coach of the Year award and his first since his initial season
Senior 2-meter Nikos Delagrammatikas and junior utility Jack Deely joined Papanikolaou on the All-MPSF First Team. California shared the conference-high with three players earning first team selections.
Earning second team selections for the Golden Bears were sophomore attacker Garrett Dunn, sophomore goalkeeper Adrian Weinberg and freshman attacker Alika Naone. Rounding out the conference honors for the Bears was sophomore 2-meter Warren Loth, who earned All-MPSF Honorable Mention recognition.
Papanikolaou ranks third in the MPSF with 25 goals and fourth with 26 points and 14 steals through the regular season, scoring in all 10 of the Bears' regular season games. He earned 44 ejections (15 penalty shots) and is the only player in the MPSF this season to draw six exclusions against a conference opponent, having done so twice. Papanikolaou was one of three players in the MPSF to collect four steals in a single game, also going so twice during the season.
Delagrammatikas tallied 14 points, 10 goals, four assists and five steals through the regular season. He finished with two hat tricks, scoring three goals each in two wins over UCLA.
Deely finished the regular season with a team-high 29 points (17 goals, 12 assists). The junior had a season-high five goals against UCLA on Feb. 21 and joined Papanikolaou as the only Bears to score five goals in a single game this season.
BETWEEN THE PIPES
Weinberg finished the regular season with a 7-1 record in the cage, 104 total saves and an average of 13.87 saves per game. He collected a season-high 15 saves in Cal's Feb. 7 win over then-No. 1 Stanford, holding the Cardinal to 11 goals, its second-lowest score of the season. Weinberg had at least 13 saves in six of the eight contests he played.
Naone had an impressive freshman campaign for the Bears, finishing the season tied for second on the team with 26 points (16 goals, 10 assists) and adding nine steals. He scored in all but one game this season and had at least one point in every contest. His season-high five points came in a 16-15 overtime win over UCLA on Feb. 21, when he finished with two goals and three assists.
FOLLOW THE ACTION
Fans can follow along with live stats for each game this weekend as posted on the schedule. All games will be broadcast via
MPSF TV, and a daily, monthly or annual subscription can be purchased at mpsports.org/watch.
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).