No. 5 Bears Open MPSF Play At No. 1 USC
The No. 5 Cal men's water polo team is back on the road again this week with its MPSF opener at No. 1 USC. The Bears and Trojans last met in the championship game of the MPSF Invitational on Sept. 26, and USC squeaked out a 12-11 victory at Spieker Aquatics Complex. Saturday will mark the Bears' last road game for over a month as they will play their next four games at home. Cal is coming off a split in a Southern California road swing in which it beat No. 13 UC Irvine before falling to No. 12 Pepperdine.
THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT
The Bears have seen an infusion of production from their freshmen class this season. Robert Valera won back-to-back MPSF Newcomer of the Week awards and has 21 goals and 18 assists in just 10 games. He is tied for fourth in the MPSF at 2.1 goals per game. Fellow freshman Max Casabella has 20 goals and 11 assists and is tied for sixth in the conference at 2.0 goals per game. Jordi Gascon has nine goals while Wyatt Mundelius has added seven. Cal freshmen account for 24 percent of the team's scoring this season, including 35 percent in the last nine games.
EVERIST REACHES MILESTONE
Cal head coach Kirk Everist registered his 400th career win on Sept. 18 when the Bears defeated San Jose State at the Aggie Shootout. Now in his 20th season leading the Cal program, Everist has a career record of 405-125. He was named the MPSF Coach of the Year last season for the second time in his career and has led the Bears to three NCAA titles, most recently in 2016. Everist was a three-time All-American as a player for Cal and went on to play for Team USA twice in the Summer Olympics.
Junior center Nikolaos Papanikolaou was named the MPSF Player of the year and an ACWPC First Team All-American ast season, and he's making the case to take home more honors this year. Arguably the most unstoppable force in the college game, Papanikolaou leads the MPSF with 44 goals and 22 steals, as well as a whopping 70 earned ejections. Twice this season he has drawn eight exclusions, which is the most in a game by an MPSF player. He is also tied with Jacob Mercep of USC for the most goals scored in a game this season by an MPSF player with seven, having done so in a win over Cal Baptist on Sept. 17.
HERE'S THE DEEL-Y
Senior Jack Deely is following up his All-American junior season with another phenomenal campaign, leading the MPSF in points (68) and assists (33) while ranking second with 35 goals. In his last six games, Deely has amassed 16 goals and 11 assists. He's also tied for ninth in the MPSF with 12 steals.
The Bears had five student-athletes at the recently completed FINA Junior World Championship in Prague, Czech Republic. Junior goalie Adrian Weinberg, junior attacker Sam Untrecht and sophomore center George Avakian are all represented Team USA, which finished seventh overall. Meanwhile, freshmen Roberto Valera and Max Casabella played for Spain, which placed sixth.
ABOUT NO. 1 USC
• Cutino Award finalist Jacob Mercep leads the MPSF in steals per game and ranks in the top-10 in goals, assists and points
• Trojans won the MPSF Invitational in Berkeley last month, defeating Cal in the championship
• USC lost to UCLA in the NCAA championship game last season