May 14, 2010

By Kyle Kensing
Special to

SAN DIEGO - No. 4 California built an early advantage in its quarterfinal NCAA women's water polo national championship match with No. 5 Michigan, and held off a Wolverine rally to win, 12-8, Friday at the San Diego State University Aquaplex.

The Golden Bear victory was the finale of Friday's four quarterfinals, setting the stage for Saturday's semifinals. Cal faces top-seeded Stanford in the first semifinal and surprise entrant No. 6 Loyola Marymount draws No. 2 USC in the nightcap.

"I learned in my time with the Olympic teams, you have to be selfish in these championships," said Cal coach Richard Corso. "You have to focus on you."

The Golden Bears showed their focus, taking a lead they would never relinquish one minute into the game, and a 4-0 outburst in the second period proved decisive. From there, the Golden Bears took the air out of the ball to try and neutralize the Michigan counterattack.

"There's not any team in the nation that can stay with us on the counterattack in the second half," Michigan coach Matt Anderson said. "Our depth is good and our speed is as good as anybody's. We showed that in the second half, but they had a lead. That was the difference."

Cal was methodical offensively, using efficient passing to eat the shot clock before taking open shots. Aside from putting goals on the scoreboard, it forced Michigan to hurry its possession looking to bridge the gap.

The closest the Wolverines would get was 10-7, after scoring three consecutive on penalty shots.

Lauren Orth, who graduated from Poway High School in San Diego county and was playing in front of friends and family, notched goals on four of five penalty shot attempts.

"That one [miss] will haunt me," she said.

From that 10-7 deficit, the teams traded goals in the final stanza.

Michigan's best chance at a rally came when a younger Cal unit took the pool. Corso said his freshman were overwhelmed by a renewed Wolverine defense.

"They went into a full-court press, and that certainly took the air out of our sails," he said.

It wasn't enough to overcome the deficit though. Michigan faces Pomona-Pitzer in the consolation bracket.

When Cal and Stanford play, it will be for the fourth time this season. Stanford swept the regular season series 3-0, the most recent a 10-3 decision in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation tournament May 2.

"Reality is, if we play Cal in a seven game series, they win four games to three," Anderson said. "There are two teams this year that have shown they're heads above everyone else, and that's USC and Stanford. Everyone else, throw them in a hat, mix them up...everybody is competitive."