suites at polo towers las vegas water polo takes SoCal road trip to face No
It’s back to the drawing board for No. 4 Cal after suffering a 13 8 beatdown at the hands of No. 3 UCLA. But with MPSF play in full swing, there won’t be much time for the Bears to recuperate. This weekend, Cal will be taking a road trip down the state to take on No. 11 Pepperdine on Saturday morning and No. 10 UC Irvine on Sunday afternoon.
Prior to last week’s matchup, the Bears (17 3, 1 1 MPSF) were ranked No. 2 and were mowing down their opponents. Through its defense, Cal forced its opponents into sloppy possessions and turnovers to fuel its dynamic fastbreak offense.
But then the Bruins shredded the Bears’ trademark defense with an efficient and patient offense, slowing the game down and forcing Cal to play out of its comfort zone the half court.
This weekend, the Bears will have to improve in their half court offense. But most importantly, the defense will need to show up. For the most part this season, Cal hasn’t found itself in a position where the defense couldn’t deliver, and as a result the Bears’ offense was able to play at its preferred quick tempo.
With six regular season matches coming up in addition to the MPSF and NCAA championships, there is still a lot of water polo left to be played. Teams are aware of Cal’s high speed tendencies and will adjust their game plan specifically on stopping the fast break.
“That will be important for us to have a solid defensive awareness of what we’re trying to accomplish on transition, front court defense and six on five,” said head coach Kirk Everist. “Our main focus is to get ourselves into these two games and focus on the defensive end and get some stops so we can get our transition counterattack offense game going.”
The defense is best when the defenders are playing man to man press coverage, which means every defender is assigned to cover an offensive player up close to make the ball carrier uncomfortable and shrink passing lanes.
“We want to play man to man defense,
at least for the first part,” Everist said. “Eventually, you’re going to lose some conditioning, and you got to run a zone. But I thought we were running the zone for five or six seconds longer than we would like.”
When the defense drops back in a zone, the physical element of the defense significantly drops as well. Players on defense are no longer up close to the offensive players and are no longer the aggressors on the play.
With zone, the defense is simply waiting and hoping the offense makes a mistake, whereas in press coverage, the defense is asserting itself and initiating the play.
This weekend, Cal has to be prepared, because it is highly likely Pepperdine and UC Irvine will try to replicate what UCLA did by slowing things down and taking their time running offense. If these two opponents can score slow but often, that’s going to stop the clock, give the defense time to re establish and allow them to not have to worry about the Bears on the fast break.
If Cal wants to come away this weekend with two comfortable wins, the defense needs to improve on press coverage. Through the press, the Bears can apply pressure on the ball carrier and shrink passing lanes and limit the other team’s opportunities. If Cal can succeed in playing defense and playing fast, there is very little chance any team can keep up.