As the old saying goes, adventure starts when you step out of your comfort zone. The Cal men’s water polo team has certainly had its fair share of adventure in Southern California, ending its quest with a 7-6 win over the USC Trojans.
As they head back into Bear territory Sunday to spar against the UCSB Gauchos, the blue and gold are looking to lengthen their ongoing streak.
“I’m going to bring my 100% — actually, 110% — to every single game,” said junior goalkeeper Adrian Weinberg. “I’m hoping that me and my team can bring our best.”
The Gauchos have had a solid season so far, currently sitting at No. 6 in the rankings, while Cal moved up to No. 2 following its victory against USC. The matchup between the two top-tier teams will generate some impressive plays and difficult faceoffs, as both have high expectations heading into the weekend.
Some UCSB players to look out for include senior attackers Cole Brosnan, Sawyer Rhodes and Leo Yuno, who are expected to create challenges for the Bears’ defense.
On Cal’s end, the underclassmen are looking to lead the charge. Freshman center Jordi Gascon and sophomore center George Avakian are planning to force the Gauchos to adjust to the Bears’ style of play.
Meanwhile, freshman attackers Max Casabella and Roberto Valera are hoping to generate more shooting opportunities, giving the UCSB defense multiple outside shooters to focus on.
“It’s important for our other players to take advantage of those opportunities and windows,” said Cal head coach Kirk Everist. “That makes it really tough on other teams as far as their defensive schemes because we’re able to score from multiple positions.”
While the Bears have regained footing on defense, the Gauchos boast a few powerful left-handed shooters and an impressive offensive scheme, so neither team can afford to let its guard down at all.
Staying aware and hyperfocused will be the key to success.
“A lot of it is worrying about what we’re doing and how we’re approaching the game and how we want to play,” Everist said. “We’ll have to focus on a couple of their top offensive players, but they’ve got a good solid team all around.”
Cal’s offensive tactics will also play a major role in how well it performs. If they don’t want to trade goals back and forth with the Gauchos, the Bears must use their defensive plays to create momentum for offensive opportunities.
“Turnovers lead to a lot of their offense because they have some good speed,” Everist said. “We’ve got to be really good at controlling the tempo of the game, not turning the ball over or taking the shots when we’re not expecting them, so that we can counterattack the other way.”
No team can win or lose in the first couple minutes of any game, but that doesn’t mean the blue and gold will relax in the beginning. To claim victory, they’re going to have to start out strong, but it’s going to be a game of endurance and patience for Cal, as it must seek a tempo that will make it challenging for UCSB to score.
The blue and gold have their work cut out for them this weekend. At home and hungry for more, the Bears will need to focus and work together if they want to come out on top.