By George Chen
Beginning its quest to seek a third consecutive national championship, No. 2 Stanford women’s water polo made a resounding statement today in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament with a 20-3 victory over No. 7 Iona. With the win, the Cardinal will square off against No. 3 UCLA—it’s the fourth meeting between the two teams this season—in the semifinals tomorrow.
The Cardinal showed no signs of hangover from its loss to No. 1 USC in the MPSF Tournament championship game two weeks ago, as it got off to a torrid start with four goals in the first eight minutes. The Gaels had no answer, allowing Stanford to eventually take a 10-0 lead heading into halftime.
“We were pleased with the start. I liked how we played on defense, we got things going in the second quarter but even in the first quarter when we weren’t scoring the ball I liked what we were doing,” Stanford head coach John Tanner told GoStanford.com. “Our possessions were good, we were passing well and seeing opportunities. Jillian [Garton] created a bunch of chances and was doing a nice job controlling our offense.”
Senior Melissa Seidemann led all scorers with four goals, while junior Annika Dries grabbed a hat trick. The team also saw plenty of contributions from freshman Maggie Steffens, sophomore Ashley Grossman and freshman Anna Yelizarova, who all found the back of the net twice.
The defense did its job, too, not allowing Iona to get on the scoreboard until there was 1:16 left in the third period. Senior Katie Baldoni and freshman Gabby Stone also combined for a solid eight-save performance in front of the net.
The only team that managed to score more goals than Stanford in the opening round was USC. The Trojans demolished eighth-seeded Pomona-Pitzer to the tune of 27-1. The Cardinal may be waiting anxiously for a chance to avenge its two losses to USC this season, but that epic rematch has not been etched in stone just yet.
First, Stanford will meet conference rival UCLA, which edged out Princeton 8-6 on Friday afternoon. The game is slated for a 4 p.m. PST start time tomorrow.