Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Daily Cal: Press Room Banter

How many people know that the Cal men’s water polo team has won the most NCAA championships of any men’s water polo program?

How many people know that the last time that it won the national title was in 1992?  I bet you didn’t know that.  How many people know that in the shadow of quite possibly the Bears football team’s biggest game since, well, before I was born, the water polo squad has possibly its biggest game since 2002?  While Marshawn Lynch and the boys try to take care of John David Booty and those Trojans on Saturday, John Mann and his boys also invade Los Angeles for a pivotal matchup with No. 1 USC.  By water polo’s standards, it’s been a long time since that last national championship. It’s also been awhile since No. 2 Cal has been in the NCAA tournament—the last time being in 2002.  But what seems even longer than the national title drought or the tournament absence, though it’s the shortest of any of those streaks, is the last time the Bears beat the Trojans. That was back in 2003, when a Nate Longshore-less football squad also last beat USC.  Since then, the Trojans have owned Cal like Google owns the universe. It’s been 11 straight losses for the Bears against the red and gold Speedo-wearing USC, and the Trojans haven’t lost a match since October of last year—winning 41 straight games.  The task is simple for the best Cal squad since that 2002 season—it has to beat USC for any chance at a national championship. Whether it’s Saturday in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation championship, or in two weeks in the NCAAs, the Bears will have to go through the Trojans.

Like that old cliche says, to be the best, you have to beat the best.  Cal has come close twice this year. In the NorCal tourney, the team was only down by one goal heading into the final period when USC netted three straight to put the Bears on ice.  Down in Los Angeles for the SoCal tourney, Cal only lost by one.  It’s been close and it’s been tight between the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the country.  But here’s the deciding factor in both those matches: Mann, who’s scored an astronomical 67 goals this year, has only found the back of the net once against the Trojans.  That isn’t how big-time players play in big-time games.  If Mann wants to show that he belongs on the Olympic team in 2008, there’s no better way than leading the Bears out of the Trojan horse, invade McDonald’s Swim Stadium and pillage the hell out of USC.  If Mann can be the man we all think he is in the pool, then the Bears can successfully take down Troy.  For a total victory Saturday, Cal needs to take the waters first before the invasion of the Coliseum can begin.

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