Stanford’s No. 1 women’s water polo team went into Sunday with thirty straight victories against Cal, going undefeated against the cross-bay rival since 2000. The Cardinal (28-1) continued that streak when it mattered most yesterday, earning an emphatic 9-5 win over the No. 2 Bears (24-4) in the National Collegiate Championship final.
After the third-place MPSF Tournament finish that failed to give Stanford an automatic berth, the Cardinal still managed to earn an at-large bid and the No. 1 seed of the NCAA Tournament that took place last weekend in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Stanford’s first opponent in the eight-team tournament was Iona College on Friday. The Cardinal started the tournament on the right foot, scoring a season-high 22 goals while holding Iona to just seven. Junior two-meter Melissa Seidemann led all scorers with five, while junior driver Alyssa Lo and freshmen driver Kaitlyn Lo both had hat-tricks.
“We passed the ball really well,” said head coach John Tanner. “We had good spacing in our frontcourt offense and made some good decisions in front of the goal, giving us a comfortable margin early. Everyone looked solid on the offensive end.”
The following day, Stanford faced fourth-seeded USC in a rematch of last year’s national championship game — which Stanford painfully lost, 10-9. The two squads were quite familiar with each other, as the semifinal matchup marked their fourth meeting this season.
Two of the meetings this season involved overtimes, including a 10-9 triple overtime game when Stanford and USC were ranked No. 1 and No. 2, respectively.
This time around, the Cardinal made things a little less dramatic, doubling up the Women of Troy 8-4. Strong performances by senior leaders were the theme of this game and the weekend as a whole — against USC, senior driver Kim Krueger led all scorers with three goals.
“We work so hard in practice to make practice just like the game,” Krueger said. “I went out there and did what I knew I could do. It really helps when I know I have all my teammates behind me.”
Senior goalie Amber Oland, meanwhile, had ten saves in the cage and held USC to one goal in the first half.
“We really focused on stopping [USC’s] 6-on-5,” Oland said. “We knew where they were shooting. We’ve scouted them a ton and went out there and executed.”
Oland equaled USC’s first-half offensive production before the match was over, scoring a goal of her own on a pool-length toss with 1:05 left in the game.
The win over USC put Stanford into the final against Cal. MPSF Player of the Year and sophomore two-meter Annika Dries led the offensive attack against the Bears with a game-high five goals, avoiding any drama as she scored three goals in the first half to give Stanford a comfortable 4-1 lead.
“We planned to give [Dries] the ball,” Tanner said. “They don’t have defenders that can match up with her. She was unreal — so explosive and determined. Our whole team did a great job of setting her up.”
On the defensive end, Oland had another stellar performance with eleven stops. She stopped a penalty shot that led to an offensive run by the Cardinal, padding its lead to 6-1 early into the second half.
“Between [Krueger] and [Oland], they had their two best games each in their four-year careers,” Tanner said.
Stanford defeated Cal for the second time this season by a final score of 9-5 to claim the national title. Oland, Dries, Seidemann and Krueger were named to the NCAA All-Tournament First Team with Dries named as the Most Valuable Player.
“It was a wonderful day,” Tanner said.