The underclassmen are already taking command.
Led by a trio of young gunners—freshmen drivers Bret Bonanni and B.J. Churnside along with sophomore utility Alex Bowen—Stanford took third place in the NorCal Invitational this weekend at the Avery Aquatic Center.
On Sunday, Stanford (3-1) defeated No. 3 California 9-8 in the third-place game after losing 10-9 in overtime to No. 1 USC in the semifinal. No. 3 Stanford also beat No. 5 UC-Santa Barbara 8-7 on Saturday after romping to a 19-1 victory over Santa Clara.
Bowen continued his success from last year, leading Stanford with 11 goals in the four games this weekend. Bowen was the Cardinal’s top goal-scorer last year, when he won Newcomer of the Year and first team All-American honors.
But the bigger story on this inaugural weekend was the performance of the highly-touted freshman Bret Bonanni. He lived up to expectations in Stanford’s first games of the season, scoring 10 goals—including the deciding goals against both UC-Santa Barbara and California.
His fellow freshman Churnside was just as clutch, scoring with only four seconds left against USC to force overtime. Churnside finished the tournament with six goals. Another key player making his first starts was redshirt junior goalie Scott Platshon, who is taking the place of graduated goalie Brian Pingree. Platshon sat out the first game but ended the weekend with 23 saves, including nine in the overtime loss to USC.
In the first of three close games, Stanford used a strong defensive fourth quarter to slip past UC-Santa Barbara. Tied 4-4 at halftime, and then 7-7 after the third quarter, Stanford’s defense shut out the Gauchos in the final frame to hold on for an 8-7 win.
Stanford and USC played a tight game throughout, with Stanford holding the lead for much of the contest until the final quarter. The Cardinal took a 4-3 lead into halftime, which they extended to 5-3 early in the third. The Trojans fought back, though, taking a 6-5 lead early in a crazy fourth quarter that saw nine total goals.
Down a goal with four seconds to play, Stanford drew a kick-out, and Churnside took a shot from outside of four meters and fired home past USC’s goalie to tie it up at 9-9 with three seconds on the clock and send the game to overtime.
The scoring did not carry over into extra time, and USC’s Jeremy Davie scored the eventual game-winner 2:41 into the second period after a scoreless first session.
After a quick turnaround between the semifinals and the consolation game, Stanford found itself ahead 7-1 in the first half against California. But what looked like a routine walkover turned tense as California mounted a comeback.
Cal cut the lead to 8-3 at halftime and came all the way back only to eventually lose by one goal. Stanford’s lone goal of the second half, which turned out to be a pivotal one, came on a bizarre play where California’s goalie was ejected and Bonanni alertly scored the ball on an empty net.
Stanford’s next games are in two weeks, when it travels to Santa Barbara for the SoCal tournament featuring the same lineup of the nation’s top teams.
Contact David Perez at email@example.com.