After a dominant tournament performance in Ann Arbor, Mich., last month to begin its 2011 campaign, the No. 1 Stanford women’s water polo team (4-0) goes into the two-day Stanford Invitational looking to continue its strong start at home.
The team had last weekend off after the Michigan Kickoff, in which the Cardinal outscored its opponents 57-11 to sweep its set of four games.
During that tournament in Ann Arbor, the Card stomped over a gauntlet of top-15 opponents. The team started by dusting off No. 14 Hartwick, 14-3, and No. 6 Loyola Marymount, 14-1, on Jan. 22, the first day of the tourney. The following day, the women showed little signs of fatigue, continuing their exceptional play in a 14-1 rout of No. 13 Indiana and a 15-6 win over the host school, No. 8 Michigan.
Juniors Pallavi Menon and Melissa Seidemann combined for 16 goals over the weekend, with Menon’s nine goals marking a team high. In the cage, all three Cardinal goalies had playing time, including sophomore Kate Baldoni, who totaled 22 saves.
The veterans were solid, but the team enjoyed contributions from its young talent as well. Freshmen driver Kaley Dodson was named MPSF Newcomer of the Week after racking up six goals during the tournament, scoring a pair each against Hartwick, LMU and Indiana. Sophomore driver Jillian Garton matched Dodson’s six goals. The two underclassmen are tied for third on the team in total scoring, behind Seidemann’s seven and Menon’s nine.
The impressive start is a good omen for a team that narrowly missed the sport’s highest honor last season. In 2010, Stanford finished one goal shy of a national championship, falling against USC, 10-9, and placing second in the nation for the fifth time in school history. That team finished with a 26-3 overall record, including a perfect 7-0 MPSF record and a 5-0 mark on the road.
Stanford has begun the 2011 season without recent graduates Kelly Eaton, Kelsey Holshouser, Alex Koran and Jessica Steffens. Eaton, in particular, made a big mark last year, scoring 51 goals on the season and a team-high four goals in the national final against the Trojans.
Stanford will have plenty of carryover in the cage, however, with all three of its goalies—Baldoni and seniors Amber Oland and Kim Hall—returning.
The team will not boast significant senior experience, with Kim Krueger joining Oland and Hall as the only long-time veterans on the 19-player roster.
Despite not being a senior-laden team, Stanford will have a plethora of talented upperclassmen including juniors Menon, Seidemann and Cassie Churnside. Seidemann was the team’s leading scorer last season, knocking in 54 goals.
As it will this year, Stanford also went into the 2010 Stanford Invitational as the top team in the country. The team managed to win the tournament for the first time in seven years by defeating then-No. 4 California, 10-7, in the final.
Stanford will open up against Arizona State at 8:30 a.m. and Cal at 4 p.m. on Saturday. The Cardinal will wrap up on Sunday against San Jose State at 8 a.m. before a to-be-determined championship match on Sunday. All matches are at the Avery Aquatic Center.