By Jana Persky
In the last regular-season home game of her career, senior goalkeeper Kate Baldoni held No. 4 UCLA to just one goal as the No. 2 Stanford women’s water polo team (23-1, 4-0 MPSF) defeated the Bruins 8-1 in front of a large crowd at Avery Aquatic Center on Saturday afternoon.
With the victory, the Cardinal clinched a top-two seed in the MPSF Championships, which will take place from April 26-28. Next weekend’s tilt against No. 1 USC will decide who takes the number one spot.
UCLA entered the contest averaging over 11 goals per game, but Baldoni (with seven saves) and the Cardinal defense kept the Bruins off the scoreboard until the final five minutes of the game.
Stanford’s aggressive defending consistently forced UCLA to settle for shots from the perimeter, and, with the help of a few fortuitous bounces off the posts, Baldoni saved every attempt except one.
Baldoni was not the only member of the Class of 2013 to perform well on Senior Day—classmates Melissa Seidemann and Alexis Lee led the Cardinal with two goals apiece. Junior Kaley Dodson also scored twice, while sophomore Ashley Grossman and junior Kelsey Suggs each chipped in a goal.
Seidemann opened the scoring with a penalty shot goal less than two minutes into the game. That would be the only goal of the first period as both defenses and goalkeepers stood strong. Stanford freshman Maggie Steffens earned a penalty shot of her own with 4:25 left in the quarter, but UCLA goalkeeper Sami Hill made the save to keep the score at 1-0.
The Cardinal doubled the lead early in the second period when Lee finished a shot from the near post after a nice pass from sophomore Kiley Neushul.
It appeared that there would be just a single goal in the second period as well until a UCLA player was excluded in the final minute of the half. With six seconds to go before halftime, Dodson skipped a shot in from a tight angle to give the Cardinal a 3-0 lead.
UCLA had one of its best scoring chances of the game on a long breakout pass two minutes after halftime, but Suggs tracked down the streaking Bruin and broke up the play.
The Bruins had another opportunity to get on the scoreboard when they earned a power play with two minutes left in the period. On UCLA’s first shooting attempt, Dodson made a strong block, and the second went over the crossbar to end the threat.
On the ensuing possession, Stanford converted a 6-on-5 of its own. Seidemann received a lob pass near the post and fired the ball home for her second tally of the game.
After winning the opening sprint to give the Cardinal possession to start the fourth quarter, Dodson scored from in close to give Stanford a 5-0 lead.
The Bruins finally scored when UCLA sophomore Emily Donohoe snuck a shot inside the near post with 4:44 remaining in the game. Donohoe had another scoring change a minute later, but Baldoni blocked the shot to maintain the four-goal lead.
The Cardinal then capped the game off with three goals in the final four minutes.
Alexis Lee scored a power play goal—the Cardinal’s third 6-on-5 score of the game—before Grossman fought off a UCLA defender to finish a breakaway and Suggs scored on a long shot 17 seconds before the buzzer.
With 46 seconds left in the game, Stanford head coach John Tanner substituted for all four active seniors—Baldoni, Jillian Garton, Lee and Seidemann—to let the crowd show their appreciation for the group’s four seasons of work. The Cardinal’s fifth senior, Victoria Kennedy, is sitting out the year with an injury.
Stanford now turns its attention to the looming rematch with USC. The Women of Troy are the only team to beat the Cardinal this season, which they did by a 13-10 score on Feb. 24. The Cardinal will look to avenge that loss and grab the top seed in the MPSF when the two teams meet at 4 p.m. next Saturday in Los Angeles.
Contact Jana Persky at jpersky ‘at’ stanford.edu.