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Women’s water polo hosts Stanford Invitational Saturday and Sunday

After opening the season with five straight victories, the No. 1 Stanford women’s water polo team returns home for the Stanford Invitational this weekend.

Already off to a perfect 5-0 start, the women's water polo team and sophomore star Kiley Neushal (above with ball) are aiming higher in hopes of a third consecutive national championship this year (Stanford Daily File Photo)

Already off to a perfect 5-0 start, the women’s water polo team and sophomore star Kiley Neushal (above with ball) are aiming higher in hopes of a third consecutive national championship this year (Stanford Daily File Photo)

Stanford (5-0) hosts seven collegiate teams as well as The Olympic Club for matches played in both Avery Pool and Belardi Pool. The Cardinal will be seeking its fourth-straight championship in its home tournament.

The Cardinal looks to continue overwhelming opponents early — in four of five games last weekend, Stanford scored what turned out to be the winning goal in the first period.

Offensively, senior captain Melissa Seidemann leads the team with 14 goals. She is followed by a trio of freshmen — Gurpreet Sohi, Maggie Steffens and Anna Yelizarova — who combined for 28 goals in the first five games of their collegiate careers. In all, 13 different players scored for the Cardinal last weekend as it outscored opponents 73-18.

However impressive the goal total may look, Stanford head coach John Tanner was much happier with the team’s performance on the defensive side of the pool. Junior Kelsey Suggs leads a lockdown defense that has held opponent to just 3.6 goals per game. In goal, senior Kate Baldoni, sophomore Emily Dorst and freshman Gabby Stone all performed well last weekend.

Stanford faces tough competition in the tournament, as all eight collegiate teams in the tournament are ranked in the CWPA Top 20.

On Saturday, the Cardinal faces the San Francisco-based Olympic Club in an exhibition game at 8:30 a.m, before diving back in against No. 9 San Jose State at 4 p.m.

On Sunday, the Cardinal starts the day with No. 13 UC-Davis at 8 a.m at Avery Pool.

For the final game of the tournament, teams are matched up based on corresponding rankings between the two brackets.

Stanford is in Bracket A along with UC-Davis and San Jose State. UCLA, California, Hawaii and Indiana are in Bracket B. Hartwick is automatically slotted into fourth place in Bracket A, since it will not participate in Saturday’s games.

Tanner cited San Jose State, Stanford’s first collegiate opponent, as a team to look out for this season.

The Spartans boast a 4-1 record, with the lone loss coming against No. 7 San Diego State. Both San Jose State and Stanford beat Michigan last weekend — the Spartans outscored Michigan 9-4, while the Cardinal won 11-2.

San Jose State is led by freshman 2-meter Rae Lekness, who has 16 goals this season. Junior goalkeeper Maddie Reardon has a goals-against average of 7.79 in five starts.

UC-Davis is more unknown, as the Aggies have played only one game this season. Davis opened the season with a 12-7 win over Cal Sate Monterey Bay behind three goals and five assists from sophomore Keelia Houston. Last season, the Cardinal easily defeated the Aggies in both matches between the teams.

Stanford’s toughest test is likely to come in Sunday afternoon’s game. If the Cardinal beats UC-Davis and San Jose State, it is likely to face either No. 3 UCLA or No. 4 California in the championship game. Both teams bring undefeated records into the tournament, but one will get a loss when they match up at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday.

Last season, the Cardinal split four matches with UCLA, including a 9-5 Stanford victory in the final of the 2012 Stanford Invitational. The Bruins returned the favor in the MPSF Championship game, an 8-7 overtime battle that represents was the last time the Cardinal lost.

Stanford has won 31 straight matchups against Cal, a streak that dates back to March 26, 2000.

Tournament information and results will be available at gostanford.com. All-session passes cost 25 dollars for adults and 15 dollars for youth, seniors and Stanford faculty and staff. Admission for Stanford students is free with an SUID.

Contact Jana Persky at jpersky@stanford.edu.