Cal goes undefeated in non-revenue sports this past weekend

Cal Men's Water Polo opens season with four wins on the East Coast

It was a perfect weekend for Cal Athletics if you take away what happened at Memorial Stadium on Saturday night.

Sadly, what happens on Saturday on the football field will have a tremendous impact on the future (or lack thereof) for the numerous other sports on campus, regardless of how those sports fare on the field themselves. Barring some billionaire alum endowing the entire slate of non-revenue programs, Cal Athletics NEEDS Cal Football to make enough revenue to support the other programs, regardless of what happens in the near future with a potential massive NCAA reform. Given the existence of a fan base hungry for success, if Cal Football can just replicate the success of Stanford for the past 10+ years…that would solve a lot of financial problems.

Okay, it is time to get to this week’s recap. The last two of the Cal Fall Olympic sports, Men’s Water Polo and Cross Country, both started their seasons this past weekend. We will start with Water Polo, the program with the best shot at winning another national title this fall.

Cal Men’s Water Polo (4-0)

Despite missing 5 players to the FINA Junior World Championships, including starting goalkeeper Adrian Weinberg, Cal Men’s Water Polo mostly had an easy time in winning their season-opening matches from Annapolis, Maryland. While three of the four opponents were technically ranked in the top-25, Cal really should not be challenged by any team that is not named UCLA, USC, or Stanford (ranked 4th behind Cal in the pre-season poll) this year, if it wants to compete for another national title.

Cal will get the five players, junior goalie Adrian Weinberg, junior attacker Sam Untrecht, sophomore center George Avakian (USA) as well as freshmen Roberto Valera and Max Casabella (Spain) back this week after they travel back from Prague, Czech Republic. 

No.3 Cal 18, No.19 Navy 7

Launching his campaign for the Peter Cutino Award, Nikolaos Papanikolaou opens his junior season with a collegiate career-best 6 goals in Cal’s season opener against the host Navy at the Navy Open. Senior Anthony Rethans make 3 saves against the Midshipmen.

No.3 Cal 20, No.17 Bucknell 8

Freshman Xavier Casabella made his debut by making 9 saves against the Bisons. Papanikolaou scored 3 more goals while freshman Wyatt Mundelius tallied a team-high 4.

No.3 Cal 11, No.14 Princeton 9

Bears need a tie-breaking goal from senior Marko Valecic to pull away from Princeton. Jack Deely had a team-high 4 goals while Papanikolaou scored a brace.

No.3 Cal 22, George Washington 10

Nikolaos Papanikolaou makes it 15 goals on the weekend by scoring 4 more goals as the Golden Bears cruised to a victory in a match that was close-ish at the half.

Cal will next visit No.7 Pacific on Saturday before hosting No.12 San Jose State on Sunday.

Season Outlook

2021 Spring Results: 8-5, lost 12-10 to USC in NCAA Championship Semifinal

Cal briefly regained the No.1 ranking in the country this past spring in a bounce-back year. Golden Bears dominated the MPSF awards with MPSF Player of the Year going to Nikolaos Papanikolaou and the MPSF Coach of the Year going to Kirk Everist.

With essentially the entire squad back this fall, Cal hopes for a different result in the toss-up that is the NCAA tournament. Papanikolaou also hopes to be the next Cal winner of the Peter Cutino Award since USA “Calympian” Luca Cupido.

The Bears have a great goalkeeper in junior Adrian Weinberg who is capable of carrying the team in a tournament. Jack Deely (now a senior) and Nikos Delagrammatikas (now a graduate student) joined Papanikolaou on the MPSF all-tournament first team last season. This is a team that was capable of winning the NCAA Championship this past spring but fell short, and they should again be in the mix this December.

The 2021 MPSF Championships will be held at Stanford on Nov. 19-21. The NCAA Championships are at UCLA on Dec. 2-5.

Cal Volleyball (5-1, 3-0 this past week)

Despite not getting a minute this weekend out of the two freshmen standout from last year (outside hitter Katarina Pantovic and middle blocker Lydia Grote, probably due to injuries), Cal went a perfect 3-0 to win the Pacific Tournament.

Cal 3, UC San Diego 0 (25-20, 25-12, 25-14)

Katie Smoot had 13 kills. Mima Mirkovic and Leah Schmidt added 9 kills each. Bella Bergmark had 7 kills to go with 7 blocks as the Bears swept the Tritons on Saturday morning. Cal hit 0.367 as a team with 29 assists from Swiss freshman Annalea Maeder.

Cal 3, Tarleton State 0 (25-20, 25-23, 25-12)

The Saturday afternoon match saw the Bears getting 10 kills apiece from Smoot and Mirkovic as well as 8 kills apiece from Bergmark and Schmidt. Cal hit 0.277 as a team with 36 assists from Maeder.

Grote’s absence has allowed freshman Ellie Hamm to shine with 6 kills and 5 blocks on the day. Fellow freshman Sarah Schrag appears to have a firm grasp on the starting libero job.

Cal 3, Pacific 2 (25-19, 22-25, 25-23, 21-25, 17-15)

The lone web-streamed match of the weekend was an exciting one. Mirkovic had a double-double with 10 kills and 13 digs while Katie Smoot had a team-high 20 kills. Annalea Maeder had a double-double as well with 33 assists and 10 digs.

Cal won a close first set but faltered to lose the second. The pattern was repeated in both sets 3 and 4 as well as in the decisive 5th set. Cal had a decent lead of 11-6 but allowed the Tigers to equalize. The Bears eventually took advantage of one of the numerous Pacific service errors (a sign that it is still very early in the season) on the day and won on a Smoot kill.

In the three sets that Cal won, they hit 0.200 or better. In the two sets where they lost, they hit less than 0.100. Despite the 20 kills, Smoot also had 10 hitting errors. I am not sure giving any one player a third of the swings is a sustainable winning strategy for a postseason-aspiring team. Then again, Cal should have more offensive weapons if/when the roster is healthy later this fall.

Cal will next host the Cal Tournament this weekend when they play Nevada and North Dakota State on Friday and Butler on Saturday.

Cal Men’s Soccer (2-1-1, 2-0 this past week)

Cal 2, Dixie State 0

Jack Singer scored on an opportunistic rebound in the 52nd minute. Evan Davila doubled the Cal lead in the 64th minute. Chris Gustini (still the starter after Cal started Collin Travasos both this past spring and during the three exhibition matches) only needed to make one save for the clean sheet.

Cal 4, UNLV 3

The Sunday match was a wild back-and-forth affair on the Pac-12 Network. Singer scored again just two minutes into the match, but UNLV equalized less than a minute later.

Evan Davila scored his second goal of the week just a minute later.

UNLV again needed little time to equalize at 2-2 in the 10th minute. The scoring would finally slow down, but the Rebels took the lead with a 65th-minute goal.

Singer will eventually equalize with his second goal of the match on a nice strike.

This set up Japanese freshman Shoeei Honda for the dramatic game-winner just two minutes later. Honda used his speed to retrieve the long pass from Juan Martinez (who got two assists on the day) and then his ball skills to beat the defender and the UNLV keeper for the goal.

With three goals, including the game-winner vs. Dixie State, junior Jack Singer earned the honor of being named the Pac-12 Men’s Soccer Player of the Week. Singer also plays all over the field in various roles for the Golden Bears this year.

Prior to this week, Singer has only scored just one goal in his collegiate career.

The Golden Bears will next host Pacific on Friday afternoon at 1 pm PT.

Cal Women’s Soccer (3-0-2, 1-0 this past week)

Cal 1, USF 0

Cal dominated the match against USF but only won by a one-goal margin after freshman Karlie Lema tapped in the loose ball after fellow freshman Ari Manrique took a hard shot from close range.

On the match, Cal Bears outshot the Dons 20 to 9 with an on-goal margin of 5 to 0. Bears dominated possession and had 12 corners to just 3 for USF. Angelina Anderson got the shutout without having to make any saves.

Cal will next host Sacramento State on Thursday at 4 pm PT.

Cal Field Hockey (2-1, 1-0 this past week)

Cal 1, Dartmouth 0

Following a very similar script as Cal Women’s Soccer was Cal Field Hockey. Beares outshot Dartmouth Big Green 19 to 1, but it took a late 4th-quarter goal for the Bears to win this contest.

Anne Van Hoof, a transfer from Wake Forest, collected the rebound off a Maddie Cleat shot and put the ball in the back of the net.

Heading East this next weekend, Cal will play at Towson on Friday before a date at Maryland (preseason No.9) on Sunday.

Cal Cross Country

Cal Cross Country opened their season at the USF Invite on Saturday. The Cal men placed 2nd as a team with 6th and 7th place finishes from senior Colin FitzGerald and sophomore Garrett MacQuiddy, respectively.

Cal lost their top runners from the delayed, shortened spring season in Steven Khan and Ben Harper to graduation. MacQuiddy did have a brilliant season in the outdoor track season, winning numerous 800m and 1500m titles at meets.

Cal women only had four women at this meet, with senior Meredith Corda placing 9th to lead the team.

Cal women lost their top runner from the previous season in Annie Boos. Boos had graduated from Cal and opted to go to graduate school (as well as continue her collegiate Cross Country career) at Syracuse. Mina Anglero is back for her 5th season with the Bears but did not race this past weekend.

One last thing

Following a season in which the Golden Bears had their highest national finish ever, the entire Cal women's gymnastics staff – co-head coaches Justin Howell and Elisabeth Crandall-Howell as well as assistant coach Janelle McDonald – has agreed to multi-year contract extensions.

Howell and Crandall-Howell received new five-year contracts, while McDonald received a two-year extension.

This is a great news for the Cal Women’s Gymnastics program and some very well-deserved contract extensions for all the coaches. The Howells have taken a program that was just saved from the chopping block and turned it into a national championship contender. Assistant coach Janelle McDonald was responsible for the phenomenal Cal on Uneven Bars group that tied the NCAA record for team score on that apparatus, in addition, to produce Cal’s first individual national champion when Maya Bordas won on that event this past spring season. With the three key seniors from last year returning on top of even more young talents entering the program, Cal just might be able to top last year’s historic season this upcoming spring.