By Jana Persky
The No. 2 Stanford women’s water polo team will welcome No. 4 UCLA to the Avery Aquatic Center this Saturday for a match with heavy conference implications. Stanford’s senior class will also be recognized at the game.
The Cardinal (22-1, 3-0 MPSF) has been on a tear since falling to No. 1 USC on Feb. 24, putting together 10 consecutive wins since that loss.
However, UCLA played Stanford tight on Feb. 3 in the Stanford Invitational — the Bruins had a 4-3 lead at halftime before the Cardinal took over in the second half to take the tournament title with an 8-5 victory. Unlike the first meeting, Saturday’s game will count in the MPSF standings.
UCLA enters the match with a 21-3 record and has not lost since playing No. 3 Arizona State on March 2. Stanford and USC are the only other teams to beat the Bruins this season.
With just three weeks to go before the MPSF tournament on April 26-28, USC currently leads the conference with a 4-0 MPSF record, but Stanford is also undefeated through three games of conference play. UCLA is in third place with a 3-1 conference record, and the Bruins will be looking to knock off the Cardinal and move up in the standings this weekend.
Stanford’s vaunted attack has posted an average of 14.26 goals per game this season, which is the second-best mark in the MPSF. Stanford has seen goals from up and down the roster as 11 different players have scored 10 or more times this season.
Senior Melissa Seidemann (53 goals) and freshman Maggie Steffens (45 goals) — who both were members of the 2012 Olympic team — top the charts for the Cardinal, closely followed by freshman Anna Yelizarova (42 goals) and sophomore Kiley Neushul (41 goals).
The Cardinal’s offense has been particularly potent in the first quarter, in which it has scored 81 goals in 23 games this season. Stanford has used strong starts to effectively eliminate many of its opponents before halftime.
While UCLA has scored at the slightly slower pace of 11.29 goals per game, it still boasts several dangerous players. Sophomore Emily Donohoe is fifth in the MPSF with 55 goals in 24 games this season and has earned three MPSF Player of the Week honors this season.
In the last meeting between the teams, the Cardinal was able to hold Donohoe to just a single goal.
Bruins freshman Rachel Fattal (42 goals) has proven to be another valuable weapon. Fattal posted a hat trick against the Cardinal in the February meeting.
After those two players, the Bruins’ production drops off — no other UCLA player is in the top 25 of scoring in the MPSF. By contrast, Stanford has five players in the top 12.
Stanford’s defense has been equally strong this season, allowing a league-leading, mere 4.43 goals per game. Only four teams have scored more than five goals in a game against the Card.
All three Stanford goalkeepers have seen substantial time in net this season. Freshman Gabby Stone leads the MPSF with a 4.26 goals against average, but senior Kate Baldoni, who has played the majority of the Cardinal’s biggest games, is second with a 4.56 goals against average.
Sophomore Emily Dorst has played a total of 18 quarters in net for the Cardinal, allowing an average 4.75 goals per game. If Dorst does step into goal against UCLA, she will face her older sister, Becca, who is a junior utility player for the Bruins.
For UCLA, Sami Hill will man the net. The sophomore is second in the conference with 10.86 saves per game, while UCLA has allowed just under six goals per game as a team.
The Cardinal will honor the class of 2013 at the match, which is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m.
Contact Jana Persky at jpersky “at” stanford.edu.