Cal Women Reach First NCAA Water Polo Final Since 2011

Courtesy: Cal Athletics

BERKELEY, Calif. – For the first time since 2011 – and the second time in program history – the No. 3 California women’s water polo team is headed to the NCAA Championship game.

The Golden Bears (19-6) came out on fire in Saturday’s NCAA semifinal against No. 2 Hawaii (23-4) and never looked back, holding at least a three-goal lead for the entirety of the second half. As has been the case since the first game of the season, Cal was powered by its defense, which held an opponent to a season low in goals for the third time in the Bears’ last four games of this postseason.

Despite splitting the season series with the Rainbow Wahine, Cal had recent history on its side, having jumped out to an electric five-goal, first-quarter lead the last time the two teams faced off at Spieker Aquatics Complex on Mar. 10. This time around, the Bears went ahead by five goals just before halftime, thanks to a six-goal outburst over a span of just over six minutes.

It was the fifth time that Cal has scored a season-best six goals in a quarter this season, thanks to a game-changing run led by senior Maryn Dempsey. After scoring the game’s opening goal on a breakaway feed down the left side from senior goalkeeper Isabel Williams less than four minutes into the game, Dempsey took charge in the second quarter with a shot clock buzzer beater from the right side and a 6-on-5 goal on the left wing that deflected in off a defender’s arm.

The freshmen got involved next. Right after Dempsey secured her first-half hat trick, Julia Bonaguidi found Feline Voordouw with time and space to fire one into the top-right netting. Voordouw earned a penalty a minute later, leading to a Bonaguidi goal from five meters that trickled in after nearly being stopped.

Cal’s juniors linked up several minutes later, as Jessie Rose found Rozanne Voorvelt sneaking in behind the defense for a quick strike. On the very next play, a Williams save led to a counter and another swift attack that ended with Voorvelt setting up freshman Julianne Snyder right in front of goal.

The Bears added one more goal in the second half from junior Elena Flynn. She collected a feed inside from Voorvelt and quickly rose up in the heart of the Hawaii defense to power in her 44th goal of the season. Williams continued to make save after save down the stretch, including stopping her eighth penalty in nine games to preserve Cal’s three-goal lead with 3:48 to go.

Williams ended the day with 14 saves and an assist. Voorvelt and Rose tallied two assists each. Dempsey finished with her sixth hat trick of the year and has now scored in all 25 games this year.

With the win, Cal head coach Coralie Simmons will become the first female head coach in NCAA Championship game history. Simmons and the Bears will face undefeated No. 1 UCLA (25-0) for the third time this season.

In their first matchup on Apr. 13, the Bears were narrowly defeated 7-6 at home in a tightly-contested thriller that went down to the final possession. Two weeks ago, the Bruins earned a 13-10 win over Cal in the MPSF Championship final in Indiana.

The Bears and the Bruins will face off at 7 p.m. PT on Sunday at Spieker Aquatics Complex. The game will be broadcast live on ESPNU and ESPN+. Live stats will be provided by 6-8 Sports.

No. 3 California 9, No. 2 Hawaii 6
Cal 2 6 0 1 – 9
UH 1 2 1 2 – 6
Cal Goals
Maryn Dempsey 3, Claire RowellJulia BonaguidiElena FlynnRozanne VoorveltJulianne SnyderFeline Voordouw
UH Goals: Bernadette Doyle 3, Bia Mantellato Dias 2, Alba Bonamusa Boix
Cal SavesIsabel Williams 14
UH Saves: Daisy Logtens 11

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