By Jana Persky
After a shocking loss to No. 1 USC on Feb. 24, the No. 2 Stanford women’s water polo team bounced back with a dominating 16-3 win over Cal State-Bakersfield to open conference play on March 2.
Six different players scored twice for the Cardinal (13-1, 1-0 MPSF) and four more added a goal as Stanford head coach John Tanner worked through almost his entire lineup.
“It’s important after a loss like [the USC game] that the team sticks together and gets back to work and that was reflected in how we played today,” Tanner said. “That’s what I was most pleased with — that we played just a strong game all the way through and had contributions from the whole team.”
Stanford started at a slower pace than usual — the game was tied 1-1 until freshman Anna Yelizarova scored a power-play goal with 47 seconds remaining in the first period.
In the second quarter, Stanford’s offense exploded, scoring six goals while the defense kept the Roadrunners without a goal.
Freshman Rachel Johnson started things off with a goal immediately following an exclusion call on the Roadrunners. Freshman Maggie Steffens and senior Melissa Seidemann then fired home outside shots to extend the lead to 5-1. Seidemann leads the Cardinal with 35 goals on the season.
Annika Dries, who competed in the 2012 Olympics with Seidemann, also got in the action with a finish from in close late in the quarter for the first of her two goals on the day. The second was a lob shot in the third quarter that arced perfectly over the Bakersfield goalkeeper to drop into the net. The junior was injured in the early part of the season, but her return to play two weeks ago has been a boost for the Cardinal.
“Annika is a great player and she can control our front-court for us, make teams respond to her and give us even more of an inside presence,” Tanner said. “Anna Yelizarova and Melissa Seidemann have been doing a great job of that through the early part of the season, so it hasn’t changed that much in terms of our approach but it has added a depth to that position and created a lot more for teams to respond to.”
Stanford’s powerful attack continued creating chances throughout the third quarter. Junior Kaley Dodson rocketed a 6-on-5 opportunity off the crossbar, but Steffens was there to pick up the rebound. She worked the ball back to Dodson who finished the goal just as the power play expired to give the Cardinal a 9-1 lead.
The Roadrunners then responded with a mini-run of two goals to cut the deficit to 9-3. Stanford junior Kaitlyn Lo answered with two goals of her own and from that point on, no matter who was in the pool, the Cardinal’s defense locked down and limited Bakersfield’s opportunities to close the game on a 7-0 run. Freshman Melena Masson capped the game off with her first career goal to bring the final tally to 16-3.
“We focused on just playing cohesively with a lot of different groups in there,” Tanner said. “We got disjointed some last weekend, and today we looked better organized.”
Freshman Gabby Stone and sophomore Emily Dorst split time in net for the Cardinal in place of usual starter senior Kate Baldoni. Stone made five saves on the day while Dorst didn’t allow a goal in two quarters of action.
“We knew that they’ve both been playing great in practice and this was an opportunity for them to play against a conference opponent,” Tanner explained.
Stanford previously defeated the Roadrunners twice this season by scores of 20-3 on Jan. 27 and 12-4 on Feb. 23 in nonconference matchups. Stanford will now continue MPSF play on March 9 at home against No. 10 San Jose State.
The Cardinal beat the Spartans 15-4 on Feb. 2 as part of the Stanford Invitational. San Jose State brings an 8-5 record to the matchup after defeating UC-Santa Barbara last weekend, but has not played a league game yet this year.
San Jose State’s attack is led by freshman Rae Lekness, who is currently third in the MPSF with a scoring average of 2.38 goals per game. Sophomore Timi Molnar and Anna Natalizio are also both dangerous weapons for the Spartans.
In goal, San Jose State junior Maddie Reardon has allowed 8.57 goals per game while making just under seven saves per game. By contrast, Stanford leads the MPSF in team defense after giving up a mere 61 goals in 14 games this season.
The match will begin on Saturday at 1 p.m. at the Avery Aquatic Center.
Contact Jana Persky at jpersky ‘at’ stanford.edu.