One fatal quarter against host UC-Santa Barbara was all it took to keep Stanford from the winner’s bracket and a chance at defending their title at the SoCal Tournament. Instead, Stanford finished 3-1 on the weekend and took fifth place overall.
No. 3 Stanford (6-2) had beaten No. 6 UCSB two weeks ago by a score of 8-7, using a 1-0 fourth quarter to seal the game. This time around the Cardinal had an 8-6 advantage going into the final period, but they gave up six goals in the quarter and lost by a final score of 12-9.
Against the Gauchos, the Cardinal had more major fouls–when a player is called for his third ejection and cannot return to the game–than it did goals in the fourth quarter. Their four majors left Stanford without key players, and it also forced them to play certain lineups that were unused to playing together.
While the loss seemed like a real upset at the time, this tournament ended up being somewhat of a coming-out party for UCSB. The Gauchos pulled off another win against No. 2 UCLA in the semifinals before falling to USC in the final.
“They’re definitely better than in years past, so they’ll be tough competition no matter where we play them,” said redshirt senior driver Alex Avery, who finished the tournament with four goals.
The win for No. 1 USC gave them a clean sweep of the major early-season tournaments, and keeps the defending NCAA champions undefeated on the season.
Stanford won its opening match 13-6 against Princeton before losing to Santa Barbara. The Cardinal then went on to defeat No. 7 Pepperdine 13-8, as well as No. 8 Pacific 9-5.
Stanford outscored it’s opponents 44-31 on the weekend behind 11 goals from sophomore utility Alex Bowen–an All-American last year–nine from freshman driver Brett Bonanni, and eight from redshirt junior 2-meter Forrest Watkins.
It was the second weekend tournament in a row in which Bowen has scored 11 goals, and his 2.75 goals per game average was eighth among Mountain Pacific Sports Federation players coming into this weekend.
Bonanni kept his place as the second leading scorer for Stanford, proving again that he will be a pivotal cog in the Stanford offense.
The big-time scoring from Watkins, which included a five-goal game against Pepperdine, is also a good sign for the Cardinal. Watkins trailed only Bowen in total goals last year, but he had started off the year a bit sluggish, only netting five before this weekend.
Another fellow true freshman, driver BJ Churnside, sat out of the tournament with an injury, but he is expected to return before Stanford’s next game. He was the third leading scorer for Stanford before this weekend. Having Churnside back, along with a resurgent Watkins should be a big boost to Stanford going forward.
Avery talked about how the relatively young offense clicked more as the weekend went on.
“It’s coming together,” said Avery. “[We] got thing worked out, especially towards the end of the tournament. Things looked a lot better.”
But the defensive end continued to be somewhat troubling, as Stanford struggled to shut teams down.
“Overall it should be better than what we’ve been doing. We want to try to hold teams to four to six goals, and we were just a little short on that most games,” said Avery.
There is room for improvement on the defense though.
On Sunday, Stanford shook off the loss to UCSB and rebounded with two victories over Pepperdine and Pacific. But the Card allowed 13 goals in the two victories and have two true freshmen to assimilate into their system. In addition, redshirt junior Scott Platshon is starting in goal for the first time in his career.
A return to playing single games, instead of the grueling tournaments that dominate their early schedule, should also help the defense cut down on the number of goals they are letting up.
“We definitely expect our defenses to get better, especially once we get to single league games instead of four-game tournaments,” said Avery.
Avery and the Cardinal will get their opportunity almost immediately, as they host the top-ranked Trojans this Saturday at Avery Aquatic Center at 9:00 a.m.
Contact David Perez at email@example.com.