No. 2 Bears Host No. 6 UCSB
Fresh off its 7-6 road victory over then-No. 1 USC in its MPSF opener, the now-No. 2 Cal men's water polo team returns home this weekend to host No. 6 UC Santa Barbara on Sunday in a top-10 nonconference showdown at Spieker Aquatics Complex. Sunday will mark the first of three consecutive home games for the Bears, who also host No. 12 Princeton next Wednesday before taking on No. 5 Long Beach State on Oct. 30. The Gauchos had ascended to No. 4 in the national rankings before dropping a 9-8 decision to Long Beach last weekend.
After a tough loss to No. 12 Pepperdine, the Bears rebounded in a big way last Saturday with a 7-6 road victory over then-No. 1 USC. Junior goalie Adrian Weinberg had the best game of his already impressive college career, notching a career-best and MPSF-season high 20 saves to help turn back the Trojans. Freshman Max Casabella scored a tiebreaking goal with just under five minutes remaining to put the Bears in front 6-5. Senior Marko Valecic converted a penalty shot one minute later to put the Bears up by two, and a field block by All-American Nikolaos Papanikolaou on the Trojans' final possession helped preserve the victory.
The Bears jumped back up three spots in this week's CWPA top-20 after their road win at No. 1 USC, coming in at No. 2 behind UCLA. Cal began the season ranked No. 3 and moved up to the second spot after a runner-up finish at the MPSF Invitational in Berkeley. The Bears' 16-14 loss to No. 12 Pepperdine had dropped them to the No. 5 spot last week before climbing once again.
Junior goalie Adrian Weinberg didn't quite meet his usual standards during a recent three-game stretch that included losses to No. 2 USC and No. 12 Pepperdine, but the All-MPSF performer more than made up for it with a career-best performance during the Bears' 7-6 victory over then-No. 1 USC last Saturday. Weinberg made a career-high 20 saves, the most by an MPSF goalie in a game this season. In the process, he became just the 14th goalie in MPSF history to record a 20-save game. Weinberg leads the MPSF with 138 saves despite missing the first four games of the season to play for Team USA at the FINA Junior World Championship. He also leads the MPSF in saves per game (10.6) while ranking third with a .570 save percentage.
DELA DOES IT
Senior Nikos Delagrammatikas had his most impactful game of the season during Cal's win at No. 1 USC last week, registering his first hat trick of the season while also adding a steal and a field block. Delagrammatikas is the Bears' team captain who was an ACWPC Second Team All-American last season.
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 406-125. 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 24 steals, as well as a whopping 77 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.
ABOUT NO. 6 UC SANTA BARBARA
• All five of the Gauchos' losses are by two goals or less, and all have come against teams ranked in the top-10
• UCSB was chosen to win the Golden Coast Conference championship in a preseason poll
• FR Dash McFarland and Brock Zamaian played for U.S. at Junior World Championship