Defense was the name of the game for the Stanford men’s water polo team over Homecoming Weekend as the No. 4 Cardinal took down No. 2 UCLA 8-6 on Saturday and rolled past No. 11 UC-Davis 19-5 on Sunday.
Stanford (12-4) hosted UCLA (19-2) Saturday morning, having just fallen to the Bruins 10-5 the previous week in the semifinals of the UCI Invitational. During the Oct. 13match the Cardinal offense suffered a 19-minute scoring drought between its first two goals at the hands of the UCLA defense. This Saturday, however, was a different story, as Stanford jumped out to a 3-0 lead to start the first half.
Freshman Jackson Kimbell put the Cardinal on the scoreboard after just one minute of play, recovering a rebound on a shot by senior Conner Cleary. Sophomore Bret Bonanni added to the lead later in the period by scoring off a UCLA ejection.
In Stanford’s first possession of the second period, Cleary increased the lead to 3-0 by drilling a shot over the head of UCLA goalie Garrett Danner. The Bruins got onto the scoreboard shortly after when Aimone Barabino scored on a counter, but Bonanni answered with another goal after a UCLA ejection. The back and forth continued as Gordon Marshall scored for UCLA with two seconds left in the half, cutting the Cardinal lead to 4-2.
Stanford came out strong in the second half, running up the score to 6-2 with goals from Bonanni and sophomore B.J. Churnside.
“It showed the momentum was on our side,” Bonanni said. “We got two goals right off the bat, and that put us up four. That was just kind of the nail in the coffin for them.”
With strong defense and two more goals from Bonanni and senior Forrest Watkins, the Card held on to pick up the 8-6 win.
Freshman Drew Holland was stellar in goal, with his 11 saves highlighted by an incredible diving block on a nearside shot from UCLA’s Jack Fellner on a seemingly wide-open cage.
“We went to the same high school so I kind of know [Fellner’s] tendencies,” Holland said. “I wanted to bait him a little bit to shoot to the near side.”
The Cardinal fervor continued onto Sunday when the Cardinal faced UC-Davis (7-10). The Stanford defense was flawless and its offense deadly throughout the first half, leaving the scoreboard at Stanford 12, UC-Davis 0.
The Aggies managed to muster a little more offense in the second half, but the Card did not let up en route to a 19-5 victory. Leading Stanford’s offense was junior Alex Bowen, who notched five goals during the match. Bonanni added four, Watkins had three, and freshmen Adam Abdulhamid and Griffin Bolan scored two. In addition, senior Paul Rudolph and freshman Reid Chase contributed one goal apiece.
The key to Stanford’s success over the weekend was defense, anchored in the goal by Holland on Saturday and senior Scott Platshon on Sunday.
“We were trying a lot of movement defense and that takes a lot of communication and coordination,” said Stanford head coach John Vargas. “That was the biggest adjustment we made, and the guys did a great job this weekend.”
The Cardinal will return to the pool next Sunday when it hosts No. 9 Pepperdine at Avery Aquatic Center.
Contact Luke Asperger at lukea17 ‘at’ stanford.edu.