With a come-from-behind victory, a virtuoso defensive performance, a ton of goals and then some more goals, the Stanford men’s water polo team provided just about everything you could ask for this weekend, going a perfect 5-0 as it knocked off conference rival Pacific on Friday and swept through the Santa Clara Invitational on Saturday and Sunday.
Stanford (14-3, 3-1 MPSF) scored 76 goals over the three days, with every active non-goalie player getting on the score sheet at least once. Freshman utility Alex Bowen led the way with 14 goals (including four hat tricks), followed by senior driver Jacob Smith with 11, redshirt sophomore two-meter Forrest Watkins with 10 and senior utility Peter Sefton with 10 as well.
On Friday night Stanford beat No. 7 Pacific 8-6, overcoming yet another halftime deficit. The other four games were considerably less competitive, as Stanford won each game by double digits and never trailed in any of the games. On Saturday the Cardinal defeated No. 17 Bucknell 15-1 and then Harvard 19-3. On Sunday the team won 18-5 over Brown and 16-3 over No. 18 Air Force.
The weekend started off on a high note, as early goals by Smith and Watkins gave Stanford a 2-0 lead against Pacific. Things went sour quickly for the Cardinal, though, as the Tigers finished off the half on a 5-1 run to go into halftime leading 5-3. An early second quarter goal by Smith was the only one that Stanford would score during that run.
Stanford has been making a habit of digging itself a hole in the first half. This is the third straight conference game in which the team has been trailing by two goals at halftime. But this is also the third straight game in which a strong third quarter has gotten the Cardinal right back into the game.
Stanford took the third frame 4-1 behind a pair of power play goals from Bowen and an absolutely dominant defensive performance. Pacific’s goal in the third quarter was its only one of the half, as Stanford shut the Tigers out for the final 10 minutes of the game.
Bowen would score once more in the second half, as did redshirt junior driver Travis Noll and junior driver Paul Rudolph. Redshirt senior goalie Brian Pingree ended the day with eight saves.
The Cardinal then made the weekend trip to nearby Santa Clara for the Rodeo Tournament, which featured four games against teams from the East Coast. Stanford had a field day, or rather two field days, in the course of the four games.
The weekend was highlighted by a 19-3 win over Harvard in which four players (Sefton, Bowen, Noll and Rudolph) had hat tricks and eleven Stanford players scored at least one goal.
Pingree had 21 saves over the two days, and redshirt sophomore goalie Hunter Ploch, who saw significant action over the weekend, had a solid performance with 11.
After the 5-0 weekend, the Cardinal will travel down south to take on the defending champions and current No. 2 USC Trojans on Saturday. Stanford has already played USC twice this season. The Cardinal took its first loss of the season to USC at the NorCal Invitational on Sept. 18 but then beat USC two weeks later at the SoCal Tournament.