The men’s water polo team traveled to Southern California this weekend to test itself in the highly competitive UC-Irvine Invitational — a tournament that featured all of the top-10 teams in the current Collegiate Water Polo Association rankings. The No. 4 Cardinal asserted its dominance on Saturday with wins over No. 14 UC-Davis and No. 5 California before falling to No. 1 UCLA and No. 3 Pacific on Sunday.
Stanford (10-4) rolled into Saturday’s opening matches fresh off of a convincing 20-5 victory against No. 15 Santa Clara the previous week. The Card offense cruised through the first game against UC-Davis (7-8), downing the Aggies 18-7 with a balanced offensive attack during which eight different Cardinal players scored.
Stanford jumped off to a 6-1 lead in the first period and never looked back, running the score up to 10-3 by the end of the half and 17-4 by the end of the third period. The Cardinal offense was led by four goals from freshman Jackson Kimbell and paced by hat tricks from junior Alex Bowen, sophomore Griffin Bolan and freshman Connor Stapleton. Sophomore Adam Abdulhamid scored twice and sophomores Bret Bonanni and B.J. Churnside and freshman Reid Chase each added a goal apiece.
In its second match of the day, Stanford took down Cal with a decisive 14-8 win. Fifth-year senior Forrest Watkins got the Card on the scoreboard during the first minute of play. After the Golden Bears responded with a goal of their own, Stanford took off on a 4-0 run and finished the half ahead 6-2.
California hung within striking distance in the third quarter, matching the Cardinal offense goal for goal, but fourth-quarter goals by Churnside and Bonanni — who each scored four goals in the match — put the game out of reach for good. Senior Conner Cleary scored three goals for Stanford, while Bonanni, Churnside and Chase each racked up a goal as well.
After cruising through Saturday’s matches, Stanford couldn’t handle the strong defense of an undefeated UCLA lineup in the semifinals Sunday morning, falling 10-5 to the Bruins. After UCLA jumped ahead to an early 2-0 lead, Stapleton was able to get the Cardinal on the board with 1:45 left in the first period to cut the deficit in half.
It would take another 19 minutes of play, however, for Stanford to score again. By then, it was too late to overcome UCLA’s lead, even though the Cardinal matched the Bruins goal for goal in the fourth quarter. The Bruins (18-1) later fell to No. 2 USC in the tournament finals.
In the afternoon, Stanford battled No. 3 Pacific for third place in the tournament, but couldn’t maintain an early lead as the Card fell in an 11-10 defeat. Stanford jumped ahead in the first quarter 3-0 with two goals from Bowen and one from Bonanni, but Pacific bounced right back, tying the game 3-3 in the second period. The Cardinal responded, pulling ahead with goals from Bonanni and Cleary, but by time the half ended, the Tigers had once again evened the score at 5-5.
The two teams battled back and fourth throughout the third period and into the fourth, leaving the score even at 9-9 with four minutes of play left. Pacific pulled away with two goals, putting the Tigers ahead 11-9 with 35 seconds left on the clock. The Card managed to respond with one goal from Bonanni 10 seconds later, but Pacific was able to capture the win, holding Stanford off from a tying goal.
Despite the Sunday losses, freshman goalie Drew Holland looked strong over the weekend, posting a total of 23 saves over the four games.
Stanford will get another chance to take down No. 1 UCLA when the two teams face off again this Saturday at 10 a.m. at the Avery Aquatic Center.
Contact Luke Asperger at lukea17 ‘at’ stanford.edu.