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Bears splash to five straight victories in California

The No. 12 men's water polo team improved to 23-2 after going 5-0 this weekend in California at Santa Clara University's "Rodeo" Tournament. With these victories, the team extended its winning streak to 14 games.

"Every opponent that we're playing is capable of beating us, but the reason we've been winning consistently is that the guys believe we can win, and they are executing," said Head Coach Felix Mercado.

"We've kept the big picture in mind," said Dean Serure '13. "Everything we've done is building towards a championship."

Bruno faced California Baptist University (13-9) first, gaining an early lead and maintaining control throughout the match. With a lead of 7-2 at halftime, Bruno held on strong to capture the victory and tallied second-half goals from Captain Svetozar Stefanovic '13, Henry Fox '15 and Serure. Fox led the offense against the Lancers with five goals, two assists and two steals, helping Bruno top the Lancers 17-9.

The Bears found a closer match against No. 13 Air Force (10-9) the following day. Both teams went scoreless in the first quarter, but the Bears hit the scoreboard first with goals from Stefanovic, Fox and Matty Gallas '16. Air Force was able to capitalize on some defensive errors late in the match, but the team hung on for a close win, 6-5.

"We made a lot of defensive mistakes, but the guys rallied around each other in those tight situations," Mercado said. "Everyone else steps up and takes a little bit of responsibility to make sure that defensively we can continue to do the right thing."

Continuing their momentum, the team went on to defeat Fresno Pacific University (10-12) with an impressive performance from Stefanovic. The captain scored a career-high nine goals to lift the Bears past the Sunbirds 14-10. Goalkeeper Walker Shockley '14 led the defense with 10 saves.

Nick Deaver '15 scored a quick goal in the opening minute of the match against No. 16 University of California at Davis (12-13). Though the Bears had a 7-3 advantage at halftime, the Aggies were able to close the gap before the end of the match. Goals from James McNamara '14 and Ryan Gladych '13 kept the match in Bruno's favor, triumphing 10-6. Shockley came through defensively for a dozen saves.

Bruno faced the tournament host, No. 19 Santa Clara (9-13), for the final match of the tournament. The Broncos fell behind 4-2 and were unable to mount a comeback. Their final goal evened the score at 7-7 less than two minutes into the fourth quarter, but the Bears came up with two more goals to take the win.

"We made a ton of mistakes," Mercado said about the Santa Clara match. "But they rallied, and it was pretty impressive. The guys proved this weekend that they can win against really good teams when not playing their best."

"While there is definitely an extra sense of urgency in the final month of the season, we have one goal," Serure said. "We want to make it to the NCAAs."

The team is preparing for the end of the season, which will send the Bears to three different championship tournaments. Bruno will travel to New Haven for the Ivy Championship this coming weekend and then compete at the Northern Division Championship the following weekend.

"It would be amazing to get support at the home pool at the Northerns and get some extra motivation before the (CWPA) Eastern Championship," Stefanovic said.

"We're playing every game like a championship game - that's our mindset," Mercado said. "We haven't played our best yet, which is the best part about it. We're not peaking yet, and we're not satisfied yet. We're in a really good position to accomplish our goals."


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