The No. 4 Stanford men’s water polo will take a break from its conference schedule this weekend as it hosts No. 14 Santa Clara and No. 12 UC-Davis at Avery Aquatic Center.
With only two weeks until the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) tournament, the Cardinal (15-4, 4-2 MPSF) is looking to round into shape for a postseason push. Senior utility Peter Sefton talked about how this weekend’s games will help prepare the team for the stretch run.
“As always, we are working on defense, and you can always work on that no matter who you are playing,” Sefton said.
While Stanford has pointed to defense all year as its key to success, it could also benefit from some offensive improvement. The defense has been stellar throughout the season, allowing only 5.45 goals per game. That mark is second-best in the MPSF, behind only top-seeded USC.
The offense, on the other hand, is eighth in the league in goals per game, and the lack of offensive output seems to be the difference between Stanford and the top three teams. No. 1 UCLA, No. 2 USC and No. 3 Cal are all in the top three in offensive production, as well as the top four in defense.
Stanford has been held to four and six goals in its two MPSF losses, and even in its wins the offensive output has been less than incredible. Only twice this year has the team surpassed the double-digit scoring mark against conference opponents. Encouragingly, those two double-digit scoring outputs came in the Cardinal’s last two games.
This weekend’s games against teams outside of the MPSF give the Cardinal a brief respite from what is one of the country’s dominant conferences. The nine teams in the MPSF also make up the top nine nationally ranked teams.
The Cardinal also hosts an alumni game that should give Stanford a chance to loosen up before it heads into the crucial regular season finale against No. 3 California.
“It will be fun playing with all the older guys, a lot of people usually come back,” Sefton said.
The game against Cal will help determine seeding in the MPSF Tournament, which is crucial to Stanford’s chances of making it into the NCAA Championship. Stanford is currently fourth in the MPSF while Cal is second, but a Stanford win would give both teams two total losses, with Stanford owning the head-to-head tiebreaker.
The start time for the matchup against Cal, the annual “Big Splash,” will be announced on Monday.