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Cal Football

Cal Men's Water Polo: REPEAT COMPLETE

December 4, 2022
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BERKELEY – Jack Deely couldn't believe what he had heard.

The sold-out crowd at Spieker Aquatics Complex couldn't believe what they had seen.

Notice a trend?

In an improbable scenario that may have some still attempting to digest what happened in Berkeley on Sunday afternoon, the top-seeded Cal men's water polo team stormed back from a four-goal deficit with under six minutes to play to stun USC 13-12 and capture the NCAA championship for the second season in a row.

Three-time MPSF Player of the Year and reigning National Player of the Year Nikolaos Papanikolaou had a championship game for the ages, tying his career-high with seven goals – the last of which tied the game at 12-12 with 1:30 to play. After All-American goalie Adrian Weinberg came up with a save on USC's next possession, sophomore Roberto Valera leaked out on the counterattack and notched the game-winning goal from point-blank range with 41 seconds remaining.

The Trojans couldn't get a clean shot off on their final possession, and the Bears were able to run out the clock, setting off a wild celebration in their home pool.

The Bears captured their 16th national title overall – the most ever in collegiate men's water polo.

 "That was insane," said head coach Kirk Everist, who won his fifth NCAA championship in 21 years at Cal. "I'm having trouble remembering exactly what happened. I would be hard-pressed to remember a game that was that exciting, a game where a team had to really pull something completely out of nowhere to win a championship. We've had comebacks before, but nothing at the level of that because of what's at stake. It's a testament to the team to be able to do that in that moment."

Everist, Papanikolaou and senior Jack Deely addressed the media in the interview room after the game, and when Everist made reference to Papanikolaou's seven goals, Deely interrupted.

"You scored seven goals?" Deely asked Papanikolaou before bursting out laughing. "I thought he had four or five."



Things looked grim for Cal after USC extended its lead to 12-8 early in the fourth quarter. The Trojans outplayed the Bears for most of the second and third quarters, and when Cal came up empty on each of its next two possessions after USC extended its lead to four goals, the confidence coming from the USC bench was palpable.

The Bears finally broke through on a goal by Valera with 5:41 left, and after a USC turnover, Papanikolaou took a feed from Deely and tipped the ball into the cage to make it 12-10 at the 5:02 mark of the fourth quarter. The partisan crowd took its support to a new level at that point, and the Bears fed off of it.

"It didn't seem like it was our day," Everist said. "USC was playing really well, and we just didn't have many solutions for what they were doing. We scored a couple of goals really quick, which gave us hope and got the crowd back into it. In that last 5-and-a-half minutes, you could finally hear the crowd. You could feel the crowd, and you could see the guys get a little more energy. I think that propelled us forward."

Weinberg came up with a couple more saves and Deely and Papnikolaou connected again on a power play to cut the deficit to 12-11 with 3:22 remaining. Papanikolaou then made the play of the game, outhustling a pair of USC players to slap back in a rebound off a shot by freshman Albert Ponferrada to tie the game at 12-12.

"He's a special kid and a special player," Everist said of Papanikolaou. "I haven't seen a performance that was that spectacular, in that kind of moment. If I had to pick a team, I'd definitely pick him first."



Papanikolaou added seven earned exclusions while Valera finished with four goals and Deely had four assists. Weinberg ended with 12 saves. Papanikolaou also moved into fifth place on Cal's all-time scoring list with 210 in his career, passing Everist.

Papanikolaou was named the most valuable player of the NCAA Championship for the second consecutive year while Deely, Weinberg and Max Casabella were also selected to the First Team. Valera made the Second Team.



The Bears finished the season with a record of 23-2 and have a strong nucleus returning in 2023, including Papanikiolaou, Weinberg, Casabella and Valera. Cal has eight of its top nine scorers from this season coming back next year.

Discussion from...

Cal Men's Water Polo: REPEAT COMPLETE

2,084 Views | 12 Replies | Last: 1 mo ago by Nasal Mucus Goldenbear
DiabloWags
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The match will be replayed today on ESPNU at 2:30 PM Pacific.
Porsche . . . "There is no substitute."
swan
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Well worth watching. The last 5 minutes or so are compelling drama. Memorable rally.
Trumpanzee
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Congratulations! Great representation of our student athletes!
DiabloWags
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You just dont come back and score 5 consecutive goals at this level of competition in the final period.

In all my years of attending sporting events, I've never seen a momentum swing like this in person before.
Never.
Porsche . . . "There is no substitute."
Polodad
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Four goals down is usually the kiss of death.
Trumpanzee
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Can any of you guys play basketball or football? We sure can use you, at least your winning spirit! Never give up! GO BEARS!
DiabloWags
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Trumpanzee said:

Can any of you guys play basketball or football? We sure can use you, at least your winning spirit! Never give up! GO BEARS!

During my final quarter at Cal as an undergraduate I witnessed THE PLAY.

I would say that what I witnessed at the Spieker Pool on Sunday afternoon was literally the equivalent of that one moment in Cal Athletics history.

The last 5 minutes was a TOTAL BLUR.
Even head coach Kirk Everist wasnt sure what had happened.

The owner of 5 NCAA Championships as a coach and 2 as a player said, "That was insane. I'm having trouble remembering exactly what happened."

No one comes back from that kind of deficit in a Championship match.
No one.

The Bear does not quit.
The Bear does not die.

Porsche . . . "There is no substitute."
crewbear
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Top 3 live Cal sporting events in my 51 years of watching way too many of them:
1. The Play
T2. After that, probably a tie for 2nd between KJ, Chris Washington and co. breaking the 52-game streak against UCLA in 1986 (the roof blew off of Harmon that afternoon), and Sunday's championship game. Harmon was can't-hear-yourself-think loud, but the outside and much smaller crowd (though Spieker was sold out), on Sunday was just as over the top as the Bears came back and came back in the last 6 minutes. But in terms of sheer improbability, "it's just not our day" at the start of the 4thQ, turning into "there's no way this is happening" criteria, only The Play eclipses this match for me. Unbelievably proud of a group of guys who found a way to pull out what seemed an impossible win.
DiabloWags
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Great post!
Agreed 100%

After 3 periods of play, the sentiment in the stands was "it's just not our day".

And it seemed as though every trip down the pool for SC on offense resulted in a 6 on 5 power play too.

It also didnt help that every USC Mom and Dad in the stands was "smug" as hell and doing their "V" for victory sign after the 3rd period.

Suffice to say, that the SC fans scrambled out of Spieker about as fast as you could say, "Where did they go?"
It's as if they had seen a ghost.

At one point, I brought in some sarcastic "gallows" humor at the beginning of the 4th period and started to yell out "Go Utah!" with a young woman who was affiliated with the Cal women's water polo team. She would turn around and yell back to me, "Go Utes" and we would high-five!




Porsche . . . "There is no substitute."
DiabloWags
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Full Replay


Porsche . . . "There is no substitute."
coachdeke
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DiabloWags said:

Trumpanzee said:

Can any of you guys play basketball or football? We sure can use you, at least your winning spirit! Never give up! GO BEARS!

During my final quarter at Cal as an undergraduate I witnessed THE PLAY.

I would say that what I witnessed at the Spieker Pool on Sunday afternoon was literally the equivalent of that one moment in Cal Athletics history.

The last 5 minutes was a TOTAL BLUR.
Even head coach Kirk Everist wasnt sure what had happened.

The owner of 5 NCAA Championships as a coach and 2 as a player said, "That was insane. I'm having trouble remembering exactly what happened."

No one comes back from that kind of deficit in a Championship match.
No one.

The Bear does not quit.
The Bear does not die.



Didn't Ucla comeback from a 4 goal deficit on USC water polo in the last 2 minutes about 3 weeks ago?
Nasal Mucus Goldenbear
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coachdeke said:

DiabloWags said:


No one comes back from that kind of deficit in a Championship match.
No one.

Didn't Ucla comeback from a 4 goal deficit on USC water polo in the last 2 minutes about 3 weeks ago?

In their Nov. 11 matchup, Bruins came back late from a 3-point deficit to tie it (3 goals scored in just over 1 minute to send it to OT):
Quote:

The Bruins trailed 13-10 after Jake Ehrhardt scored for USC at even strength (1:19) late in the fourth quarter. Redshirt sophomore Gianpiero Di Martire caught fire down the stretch, scoring on three straight 7-on-6 plays by UCLA in the final 1:05 of regulation.

In the overtime period, both teams were scoreless for the first 5:57 of the possible 6:00 minutes of extra time until Cavano got a steal (0:15) and scored the game-winning goal with 0:03 remaining after an ordinary foul.
So, it took the Bruins 7:02 to come back to win from a 3-pt deficit.

Cal took 6:32 to come back to win from a 4-pt deficit in the final ncaa championship match.
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