Courtesy: Cal Athletics
BERKELEY – All-American goalie Cassidy Ball made five saves during the final five minutes and the No. 5 Cal women’s water polo team held on to defeat No. 9 UC Santa Barbara 11-10 on Saturday at Spieker Aquatics Complex.
The Gauchos cut the Bears’ lead to 11-10 with 5:02 to play, but each of UCSB’s final five shots were turned away by Ball. She finished with 12 overall and now has 221 in her career – ninth on the program’s all-time list.
“It was important for her to come up big for us,” Cal head coach Coralie Simmons said. “She likes pressure situations, where the focus level and the ability to come up big in those moments is exceptional for her. It’s early in the season and she’s already showing late-season composure with her stature in the cage. That’s exciting for us.”
Ball anchored a defense which held the Gauchos scoreless for at least five consecutive minutes on four different occasions during the game. Cal fell behind 3-1 then scored five straight to close the first half, holding UCSB without a goal for the final 5:50 of the second quarter. The Gauchos tied it at 6-6 midway through the third quarter, but the Bears built their lead up once again, ultimately leading 11-8 with 5:42 left in the game. After the Gauchos scored quick back-to-back goals to trim Cal’s deficit to one, Ball and the defense locked down the rest of the game.
“Those stretches are important for us,” Simmons said. “We had some waves where we had good defense but we needed to put the ball away. Those stretches are great, but we need to be scoring goals.”
Protopapas had four steals for the Bears while freshman Mallory Reynoso added three.
Cal will open MPSF play next weekend with a pair of games at No. 3 UCLA.