The anticipation of a new season was present in Berkeley, Calif. last weekend as the Aggies’ men’s water polo team took on the Golden Bears.
Unfortunately, the rust was there too.
“Too many turnovers,” said Steve Doten, men’s water polo coach . “Our passing was horrible. You got to be able to make a pass. There were miscues on defense. Those things, that’s not how we play.”
California took advantage of errant passes, as attacker Ivan Rackov recorded six steals and three assists.
Early on, however, it looked as if the Aggies would put up a great show in front of a huge crowd at Spieker Aquatics Complex.
Goalie Kevin Peat recorded save after save as the Cal offense seemed to dig in near the cage. Peat recorded five saves in the first quarter alone, with one block coming off a power play.
“Kevin Peat can do that for us,” Doten said. “As a team, if we can come together and showcase his strengths, we can score.”
Senior Cory Lyle worked his way down to five meters outside of Cal’s cage and drew a foul. He converted his attempt to give the Aggies the first score of the game and the new season. UC Davis had a quick 1-0 lead.
The Aggie advantage, however, was short-lived. Two quick goals from Cal’s Luka Saponjic gave the Bears the lead-something they would never relinquish. Cal would score the next seven goals, and after Lyle’s goal, 10 minutes would elapse until the Aggies would score again.
Cal centers Zach White and Jack Stampfl were huge presences near the cage. The two created mismatches for the Aggies. Stampfl would finish with two goals and White with one.
“They’re a very good team,” Doten said. “Their center is one of the best in the country. Their big guys guarding our big guys made it hard to do anything offensively. We don’t have the same size.”
In the fourth quarter, center Aaron Salit shook off the rust and planted back to back goals from two meters out.
“It’s his first college game in a year,” Doten said. “Last year, he redshirted. The center is the toughest position because he’s going to have to run the offense. He’s doing a great job on taking the responsibility.”
Despite the lopsided score, Doten remains optimistic.
“It was the first game of the season against the best team in the country in front of a big crowd-it’s easy to get excited,” Doten said. “The question is if we can be just as excited and work just as hard throughout the rest of the season. I have no doubt that [we] will continue to work hard. As we get better, in better shape, we can get consistent.”