No. 1 Cal Men’s Water Polo Downs No. 20 Navy

by SwimSwam 0

September 05th, 2023 NCAA/College Water Polo, Water Polo

Courtesy: Cal Athletics

CORONADO – Sticking around in Southern California for an additional day following the season-opening Triton Invitational, the No. 1 California men’s water polo team continued its perfect start by defeating No. 20 Navy 18-6.

The Golden Bears (5-0) took down their third top-20 opponent in as many days behind another balanced offensive attack which saw five players score multiple goals for the fourth time already. Roberto ValeraNikolaos Papanikolaou and Albert Ponferrada all tied for game-high honors with three goals apiece, with Valera notching his team-leading third hat trick.

Papanikolaou filled up the stat sheet in every other way as well. Last year’s nationwide leader in earned exclusions drew six – two of which were penalties. Ponferrada followed up Sunday’s career-high four-goal effort against No. 7 UC Santa Barbara with his third career three-goal game. He became the fourth Bear to reach 10 goals on the season.

Goalkeeper Adrian Weinberg registered nine saves in three-and-a-half quarters of work, while Kai Seed entered in the second half to make four stops. Both goalies added an assist.

Jake Howerton and George Avakian also continued strong starts to the year scoring two goals each. Avakian was second only to Papanikolaou with four earned exclusions. He is on the best goal-scoring stretch of his career with eight goals over his last four games.

The Bears will get their most difficult test of the early season Saturday at No. 2 USC in a rematch of last year’s national championship game. The contest will start at 1 p.m. PT.

No. 1 California 18, No. 20 Navy 6
Cal 4 6 7 1 – 18
Navy 2 1 0 3 – 6
Cal Goals
Roberto Valera 3, Nikolaos Papanikolaou 3, Albert Ponferrada 3, Jake Howerton 2, George Avakian 2, Ryder HaganMax CasabellaNik MirkovicSam UntrechtWyatt Mundelius
Cal SavesAdrian Weinberg 9, Kai Seed 4

Courtesy: Navy Sports

CORONADO, Calif. – The No. 20 Navy water polo team (3-2) concluded its California trip with a game against back-to-back defending national champions Cal (5-0) on Monday at Coronado High School in Coronado, Calif. The top-ranked Golden Bears posted an 18-6 win over the Midshipmen.

“This was a great weekend for Navy water polo,” head coach Luis Nicolao said. “Today’s result wasn’t the best, but our team was able to compete against the top-ranked team in the country. Today’s game is going to make us better this season. We are leaving California with three wins. We were able to get a lot of players into the pool this weekend. It was a great start to the season.”

After going 3-1 in the Triton Invitational over the weekend, the Mids return to Annapolis with a 3-2 overall record, including an upset victory over No. 9 Long Beach State.

Navy was led by freshman Kiefer Black, who finished the game with four points on two goals and a pair of assists. Tommy McKnew added two scores, while Rory Begin and Nathan Duchez both found the back of the net. Michael Heller joined Black with a pair of assists.

Defensively, the Midshipmen tallied 13 total saves with 10 steals in the game. Caden Capobianco led the charge with 10 stops in three quarters of play, posting a team-high four takeaways. Jack Hightower worked the final quarter at goal, finishing the period with three saves. Luka SekulicHolden Seybold, and Black notched two steals each.

In the first quarter, the Midshipmen were able to scratch the scoreboard first as Begin slipped one by the keeper to put Navy in front 1-0. The Bears countered with three straight goals to take the lead. McKnew answered with a goal, trimming the margin to 3-2. Cal closed out the quarter with a goal, taking a 4-2 advantage into the second period. The Golden Bears extended their lead to 10-2 before Duchez ended the 6-0 run with a goal to close out the first half.

It was all Cal in the third quarter as the defending national champions outscored Navy, 7-0. The Midshipmen won the fourth quarter, outscoring the Golden Bears, 3-1, in the final period. Black dented the net with his first score of the game, while McKnew followed with his second goal. Black registered his fourth multi-goal performance in his first five collegiate games with his second goal of the period. Cal scored one final goal to provide the final margin, 18-6.

Navy resumes play on Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 9-10, as the Midshipmen travel to Princeton, N.J. for the annual Princeton Invitational. The Mids will take on No. 16 Santa Clara (11:00 a.m.) and Chapman (8:00 p.m.) on Saturday, before concluding the weekend with a Mid-Atlantic Water Polo Conference game against Wagner (12:30 p.m.) on Sunday.

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