Courtesy: Cal Athletics
LOS ANGELES – The California men’s water polo team earned its first NCAA Championships appearance since 2017 on Sunday and will get a first-round bye before advancing directly to the semifinals against the winner of the opening round matchup between USC and Bucknell.
The Bears (8-4) will play on Saturday, March 20 at 5 p.m. PT. The tournament is being held at USC’s Uytengsu Aquatic Center.
The championship game is slated for Sunday, March 21. The semifinals and finals will be streamed on NCAA.com.
The Bears have won 14 national championships, including their most recent title in 2016 when they defeated USC in overtime at Spieker Aquatics Complex. Cal fell to USC in the semifinals of the 2017 tournament.
Earlier Sunday, the Bears made a tremendous comeback effort in the fourth quarter of the MPSF Championship game, but ultimately fell short to rival Stanford 9-8 at UCLA’s Spieker Aquatics Center. Cal took an early lead in the match, pulling ahead 4-1 in the first quarter. Stanford would go on to score the next six goals, before a Jack Deely goal late in the third period cut the Cardinal lead to 7-5. Stanford scored twice more to increase its lead to four, and despite scoring three consecutive goals in the fourth quarter, the Bears could not complete the comeback.
Eight different players scored for the Bears, the team’s most evenly-distributed offensive effort of the season. Marko Valecic led all players in the match with four points, scoring one goal and assisting on three others.
Goalkeeper Adrian Weinberg recorded nine saves in the effort to hold the Stanford offense to a season-low nine goals.