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Water polo hopes to avoid upset at Santa Clara

The No. 2 Cardinal women’s water polo team (4-0, 0-0 MPSF) will look to continue its strong start to the season today when it travels to Santa Clara to take on the No. 20 Broncos (3-4, 0-0 Golden Coast Conference) in what should be a competitive matchup.

Women's Water Polo, Kiley Neushul #3

Junior driver Kiley Neushul (left) was named the MPSF Player of the Week after scoring 11 goals to lead the Cardinal to a tournament title in the Stanford Invitational last week. Stanford will hope to avoid the upset in tonight’s mid-week matchup against Santa Clara. (MIKE KHEIR/The Stanford Daily)

The Cardinal is coming off of a stellar opening to its season, when it defended its Stanford Invitational title by knocking off four ranked opponents, including a solid win over No. 3 UCLA by a score of 8-4 in the final.

Junior driver Kiley Neushul was named the MPSF Player of the Week to cap a week in which she scored 11 goals over the course of the invitational to pace the Cardinal to victory in a loaded field. She opened the tournament with a five-goal match against UC-Davis and a hat trick against Hawaii, which she followed up with two goals against UC-Irvine and a further goal in the tournament final.

Apart from Neushul, sophomore drivers Anna Yelizarova and Maggie Steffens have contributed a number of key goals, while sophomore goalie Gabby Stone has made a parade of fantastic saves throughout the non-conference schedule. Comparing the two teams’ respective schedules would seems to hint towards a Stanford victory, as UC-Santa Clara lost 13-8 to a Hawaii team that Stanford comfortably beat in the group stages of the Stanford Invite by a score of 16-5.

Stanford has exhibited a potent mix of offensive firepower and defensive steel at various points during the four matches it has played so far, averaging 13.25 goals scored against only 5.25 conceded. In what was perhaps its most impressive period of play, it held No. 3 UCLA scoreless for almost 12 minutes in the final of the Stanford Invitational.

However, Santa Clara is not a team to be taken lightly. Senior utility player Kaitlin Murphy leads the team with 12 goals, and is ably backed up by Peters and sophomore driver Erin Sheridan. While the Broncos may be currently riding a three-game losing streak, they will look to spring the upset and take down the Cardinal this Wednesday.

The game will be contested at Santa Clara’s Sullivan Aquatic Center and will mark the first ever instance of a “green” game hosted by the Broncos. Thanks to the work of sophomore two-meter Julia Peters, sustainable living will be heavily promoted at the game, and teams will be encouraged to avoid waste stemming from energy bar wrappers, ice bags and food scraps. Both teams will also be called upon to replace their plastic water bottles with reusable bottles. Stanford even plans to take the Caltrain down to the game in order to further reduce carbon emissions.

Even the presence of such noble initiatives, however, will not prevent the Cardinal from attempting to take home another decisive victory. The match will start at 4 p.m. in Santa Clara, Calif.

Contact Dylan Fugel at dfugel ‘at’ stanford.edu.