Courtesy: Cal Athletics
STOCKTON – The No. 1 California men’s water polo team made it nine straight wins to start the year with a 17-8 victory Sunday at No. 7 Pacific.
The Golden Bears (9-0) were without star center Nikolaos Papanikolaou for the second game in a row, but that didn’t stop them from outscoring the Tigers (5-2) in all four quarters. All-Americans Roberto Valera and Max Casabella finished with four and three goals, respectively, while both dishing out a pair of assists. Sophomore Albert Ponferrada also recorded a hat trick.
Cal’s defense held its sixth straight opponent under 10 goals. Goalkeeper Adrian Weinberg tallied seven saves, three assists and three steals before being relieved by Kai Seed midway through the fourth quarter. Attacker Jake Howerton also made a big impact on the defensive end with four steals and a field block to go with a goal.
Senior Garrett Dunn opened the scoring nearly five minutes into the game on a powerplay. The Tigers responded with two straight goals, but their lead was short-lived. A no-look, backhanded shot by Jordi Gascon skipped into the net at the 1:18 mark of the first to tie the game at 2-2. Casabella put the Bears ahead for good with a pinpoint rocket into the top right corner on their next possession.
The run extended to 5-0 in the second, which proved to be the most lopsided period of the day. Howerton took a cross from Ponferrada to score on a counterattack. Casabella and Valera both scored for a second time on consecutive possessions to make it 6-2. Valera added two more goals before the end of the half as Cal moved the ball from one side of the pool with ease.
The centers shined for Cal in the third quarter, as George Avakian put away two shots from a few meters out. A gorgeous touch pass by Casabella set up Gascon for his second goal. Weinberg sent one down the length of the pool to Ponferrada who scored to close the period, giving Cal a 14-8 advantage.
The Bears shut out Pacific in the final frame while putting away three more goals. Ponferrada converted a penalty, Weinberg sent one over the top to Valera for an easy strike and Piero Arienti scored for the second straight game.
Valera notched his team-leading fifth three-goal performance of the year, giving him 22 goals. He is the second Bear to surpass 20 goals this season, behind only Casabella’s 24.
Cal will be on the road for one more weekend before its home opener against UCLA on Oct. 7. The Bears will next play at the Overnght MPSF Invitational at USC’s Uytengsu Aquatics Center on Sept. 22-24.
No. 1 California 17, No. 7 Pacific 8
Cal 3 6 5 3 – 17
UOP 2 2 4 0 – 8
Cal Goals: Roberto Valera 4, Albert Ponferrada 3, Max Casabella 3, Garrett Dunn, Jake Howerton, Jordi Gascon 2, George Avakian 2, Piero Arienti
UOP Goals: Spencer Burdack 2, Daniel Viscia 2, Gil Gvishi, Rene Peralta, ALEKSA ŠIŠAKOVIC, Filip Norell
Cal Saves: Adrian Weinberg 7, Kai Seed
UOP Saves: Lewis Gale 8