No. 2 Bears Open MPSF Play At Home
The No. 2 Cal men's water polo team returns home this week to host No. 7 UC Davis on Wednesday and No. 5 USC in the MPSF opener on Saturday. The Bears had a week off after defeating No. 8 UC Santa Barbara on the road on Oct. 2, moving to 12-1 on the season. The Aggies come to Berkeley off of a narrow victory over Air Force last weekend, defeating the Falcons 12-11. The Bears will take on the Trojans for the second time this season, having won 11-10 in their third-place matchup at the MPSF Invite last month.
Center Nikolaos Papanikolaou won the Cutino Award as the top player in NCAA water polo last season while also taking home ACWPC National Player of the Year honors, and he hasn't slowed down this season. Papanikolaou is second in the MPSF with 34 goals after winning the conference scoring championship last year with 68 goals. The three-time All-American also leads the conference with 42 earned exclusions. Papanikolaou is the two-time MPSF Player of the Year.
Goalie Adrian Weinberg was an ACWPC Second Team All-American last season and is coming off a summer playing with the U.S. National Team. Weinberg saw time for Team USA at both the FINA World Championships and FINA World League Super Final, and is back in Berkeley as arguably the top returning goalie in the nation. Weinberg ranks second in the MPSF with 105 saves after leading the MPSF last season with 230 saves.
Attacker Roberto Valera was named the MPSF Newcomer of the Year and an ACWPC Second Team All-American last season, and hasn't let up in his sophomore campaign. Valera is third in the MPSF with 30 goals scored. Valera ranks in the MPSF Top-10 in goals, points, field blocks and assists.
The Bears have had assists on 156 of 245 goals so far this season (63.7 percent). Utility player Jack Deely (26) and attacker Martin Szatmary (22) are first and second in the MPSF in assists.
MORE THAN A SUPPORTING CAST
Nikolaos Papanikolaou was the National Player of the Year last season, but the Bears feature extensive depth and talent that led them to the NCAA crown in 2021. Along with Papanikolaou and Weinberg, ACWPC First Team All-American Jack Deely, who led the MPSF in points and assists last season, is also back in Berkeley. Roberto Valera, the 2021 MPSF Newcomer of the Year, also returns along with fellow ACWPC Second Team All-American Max Casabella. Cal features 10 players who scored at least 10 goals last year.
CAL TO HOST 2022 NCAA CHAMPIONSHIP
Cal's Spieker Aquatics Complex will host the 2022 NCAA Championship on Dec. 3-4. The Bears last hosted the NCAA Championship in 2016, when they defeated USC in overtime in the national championship game. More details - including ticket information - will be announced at a later date.
EVERIST HITS BENCHMARK
Cal head coach Kirk Everist reached a milestone last season when he notched his 400th career win in the Bears' 11-9 victory over San Jose State. Now in his 21st season, Everist features an overall record of 425-128 (.769). Everist won his third career ACWPC National Coach of the Year award last year and third MPSF Coach of the Year accolade.
ABOUT NO. 7 UC DAVIS
•JR Aleix Aznar Beltran leads the Aggies offense with 55 points this season (19 goals, 12 assists)
•SR Connor Norton is the Aggies' leading goal-scorer, with 23
•R-JR goalkeeper Aaron Wilson has 134 saves, averaging 10.31 per game
ABOUT NO. 5 USC
•GR Massimo Di Martertire is the reigning MPSF Newcomer of the Week, his third time claiming the title this season. He leads the conference in goals scored (39) and is second in steals (18)
•SR Jake Ehrhardt is 11th in USC history with 155 career goals (31 this season)