Sept. 19, 2010

BERKELEY -

In a thrilling water polo match between two of the top collegiate teams in the nation, the No. 1-ranked Cal men's water polo team (4-1) saw an impressive comeback fall just short, losing to USC, 12-11, in the semifinals of the 2010 NorCal Invitational Sunday, Sept. 19 at Spieker Aquatics Complex. The Golden Bears had trailed the two-time defending national champion Trojans, 10-5, early in the third period, but were able to rattle off five straight goals to even the score, 10-10, entering the final quarter.

Cal will now face Bay Area rival Stanford in the NorCal third place match at 4 p.m. The Cardinal fell to UCLA, 10-9, in the other semifinal.

The Bears were able to get back into the match against the Trojans by a pressuring defense that led to several counterattack goals and some solid goalkeeping from junior Will Toppen (eight saves). Junior Luka Saponjic had two impressive scores in Cal's comeback, knocking down a long shot with 3:57 left in the third period and then had a phenomenal backhand shot with 2:29 left in the period to get the Bears within 10-9. Finally junior Ivan Rackov was able to tie the match at 10 with a counterattack goal with 1:46 left in the third quarter.

The Trojans were able to take back control of the match in the beginning of the fourth period on a five meter penalty shot by Nikola Vavic and a 6-on-5 goal by Peter Kurzeka with 5:52 left in the contest. Cal was able to again mount a comeback when freshman Perry Short scored a counterattack goal with 1:31 in the match. The Bears had set up for a last attempt to send the match into overtime when they called a timeout with 10 seconds left in the contest, but junior Cory Nasoff's tip attempt was blocked by USC goalie Joel Dennerley with six seconds remaining and the Trojans were able to run out the clock for the win.

Besides Saponjic's two goals, Rackov and Short also had a pair of goals for Cal. USC was led by Kurzeka's four goals. On Saturday, Cal had defeated Pomona-Pitzer, 17-8, and Pepperdine, 15-6, to advance to the semifinals.