A Big Splash With Big Implications
It's a big one this Saturday in Berkeley, and not just because it's the Big Splash at Spieker Aquatics Complex. Cal and Stanford are also vying for postseason advantages, as the winner will help its cause with MPSF ChampionshIps seeding and NCAA Championships possibilities. The Bears went 1-2 against the Cardinal during the 2021 spring season, including a 9-8 loss in the title game of the MPSF Championships. Saturday's game will be the Bears' second-to-last home game of the season, and will be televised by the Pac-12 Networks.
THREE FOR VALERA
Freshman Roberto Valera was named the MPSF Newcomer of the Week on Oct. 25, marking the third time this season he has taken home the honor. Valera brought Cal back from a 10-9 third-quarter deficit against No. 12 Princeton, scoring four of his six goals after the Bears had fallen behind 10-9 at the 1:06 mark of the third quarter. His exploits were even more important because the Bears played the game without All-American Jack Deely and most of it without fellow All-American Nikolaos Papanikolaou. Between Valera and fellow freshman Max Casabella, a Cal player has won the MPSF Newcomer of the Week honor five of the eight times it has been awarded this season. The other three times it went to UCLA freshman Chase Dodd.
LAST TIME OUT
Playing in a steady and heavy rain, Cal registered a 15-11 victory over No. 12 Princeton in its last game on Oct. 20. With All-American Jack Deely unavailable and reigning MPSF Player of the Year Nikolaos Papanikolaou on the bench until late in the third quarter, the Bears managed to erase a 10-9 deficit with a dominant fourth period. Reigning MPSF Newcomer of the Week Roberto Valera was mostly responsible for the late surge, scoring four of his six goals after Cal had fallen behind 10-9. Junior Garrett Dunn had his second consecutive impactful performance with two goals and three assists while freshman Max Casabella added two goals and an assist.
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 408-125. 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.
The Bears spent last weekend honoring their 1990 and 1991 teams that won back-to-back NCAA championships. The teams were acknowledged at a reunion dinner on Friday night then recognized at halftime of the Bears' home football game against Oregon State. The two teams went a combined 55-2 while producing 12 All-Americans, four NCAA Player of the Year awards, two NCAA Coach of the Year Awards and five Olympians.
Junior center Nikolaos Papanikolaou was named the MPSF Player of the year and an ACWPC First Team All-American last 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 51 goals and 24 steals, as well as a whopping 87 earned ejections. His 10 earned exclusions Cal's 14-13 win over No. 6 UC Santa Barbara on Oct. 17 is the most in a game this season by an MPSF player. He is also tied 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. 4 STANFORD
• Stanford has seven victories over top-10 opponents this season
• Tyler Abramson and Quinn Woodhead each ranked in the MPSF top-10 in points
• Goalie Nolan Krutonog ranks second in the MPSF with 156 saves