Widgets Magazine

Women’s Water Polo: Stanford wins MPSF with overtime win over USC

The Cardinal came up big this weekend, taking the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) women’s water polo regular season title from USC in a thriller on Saturday afternoon at home that ended in a 7-6 victory.

Stanford started out the match strong as sophomore Melissa Seidemann skipped in the first goal on a penalty shot, but the Trojans responded by scoring the next four goals, erasing the Cardinal’s momentum.

However, Stanford didn’t go down and was able to turn around and make a comeback.

Stanford senior two-meter Alex Koran controls the ball in Stanford’s 7-6 overtime win over USC. The win, which came on Senior Day, gave the Card the MPSF regular season championship. (MASARU OKA/Staff Photographer)

“We buckled down on defense and decided that we were not going to let them score once
they went up 4-1,” said freshman two-meter offense Annika Dries. “We kept our composure even though we got down early. I think this mentality is going to be key going into MPSF Championships and NCAAs. No matter what the score is, whether we are ahead or behind, we have to stay focused and execute our game plan.”

The Cardinal would not allow a repeat of its last match against USC, when Stanford lost its No. 1 ranking.

“This was the same situation that we were in the last time we played USC,” said senior driver Kelsey Holshouser. “During the second quarter of this game, however, we had a critical goal by Monica [Coughlan] to kind of spark us back in to action. Our defense was pretty solid after the first quarter so it was a matter of taking advantage of the chances we had on the offensive end. I think that goal by Monica really got us back in to it and it let our opponents know that we weren’t out of it yet.”

The Cardinal kept its cool and did not let the game slip out of its grasp.

“We did a really good job of staying calm when we were behind,” said sophomore two-meter defender Monica Coughlan, whose goal made the game 4-2 and sparked the Stanford comeback. “We always felt like we were in control of the game, even when we got down 4-1 early. We never stopped attacking.”

The Cardinal was determined to turn the game around. Not only was it Senior Night, but it was also the fight for the No. 1 seed for the MPSF Tournament this upcoming weekend.

“After our first quarter when we were down, we came together and told ourselves we needed to play together as a unit and focus on each possession,” said senior driver Kelly Eaton.

By the end of the first half, Stanford was only down 4-3 to the Trojans. By the third period, the Cardinal had fully recovered, as the score was tied 5-5.

In the remaining quarter, each team scored a single point, forcing the match into overtime. Eaton scored the final goal, resulting in Stanford’s outstanding 7-6 win.

The last time the Cardinal played the Trojans, it lost 10-6.

“We were able to respond to going down by three goals this time instead of going down by four,” Holshouser said. “I don’t think there is a single thing that we can point out and say, ‘We did this differently, so we were able to outlast them.’ Amber [Oland] made some amazing plays in the goal, Jess [Steffens] had some great shot blocks in front of the goal, Alex [Koran] made some huge moves in front of the goal and we got lucky on some stuff. We are going to need all of this and more as we move forward.”

“I think the main difference between the two games was our defense,” Coughlan added. “Last time we played USC, we didn’t play the team defense that we have played all season, and that hurt us on both sides of the pool. This weekend we were much more controlled on the defensive end, and we used that to our advantage on the transitions from defense to offense.”

Overall, the entire team contributed to the win. Junior goalkeeper Amber Oland saved an impressive 13 shots. Eaton and Holshouser each skipped in two goals. Coughlan, Seidemann and junior driver Kim Krueger each tacked on a single point as well.

Now the Cardinal will head to Los Angeles this weekend to compete in the MPSF Tournament.

“For MPSFs, our team just needs to maintain our focus one game at a time and keep high intensity throughout our practices and games,” Coughlan said. “It was great to beat USC, but we still have areas of the game that we need to improve, which is what we will be working on this coming week.”

The Cardinal began to prepare for the tournament the morning after its win.

“We had practice on Sunday morning and we watched the entire game,” Holshouser said. “We have some things that we need to clean up both on offense and defense. Something as simple as passing is going to be key as we move forward, and for the first 10 minutes of the game we looked bad on that.”

Now that the MPSF Tournament is upon the Cardinal, the senior team members must say goodbye to the Avery Aquatic Center and home games.

“It was extremely exciting playing our last game against USC and winning in overtime,” Eaton said. “It was surreal standing in front of the rest of the team like I have watched the seniors do every year in the past. These last four years have sped by.”

After the MPSF and NCAA tournaments, the season will be over for the Cardinal.

“It is hard to really pinpoint the things that I am going to miss about this team,” Holshouser said. “I learn something new from my teammates each day, whether it has to do with water polo, biology or someone’s childhood. I truly can’t imagine spending four years anywhere else and that is 100 percent because of the people that I get to play with each day.”

Stanford begins play in Los Angeles this Friday at 1:30 p.m. against Arizona State.