By Dylan Fugel
No. 2 Stanford Women’s Water Polo (5-0, 0-0 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) continued its excellent start to the season on Wednesday, beating No. 16 UC-Santa Clara (3-5, 0-0 Golden Coast Conference) 14-6 in what was a comfortable victory. The game was played at Sullivan Aquatic Center in Santa Clara, Calif., and formed part of the Broncos’ “green” initiative, as both teams took many energy-saving measures in order to reduce the carbon footprint of the game.
Stanford started the match well, taking an early three-goal lead with two goals from senior Annika Dries and another tally by freshman Dani Jackovich, who has had a very fruitful start to her Stanford career thus far. Dries would finish the game with a hat trick, while Jackovich added another goal in the third period.
The teams would then trade goals for the rest of the period, with scores by the Broncos’ sophomore drivers Erin Sheridan and Elizabeth Anderson being matched by Cardinal sophomore driver Anna Yelizarova and junior two-meter Ashley Grossman. The period ended 5-3 with the Cardinal ahead, which was about the extent that the Broncos really challenged Stanford before the game was broken open.
Anderson converted a penalty shot in order to tighten the game up at 5-4, but the Cardinal scored three unanswered from Grossman, sophomore driver Maggie Steffens and freshman Julia Hermann to build a solid 8-4 advantage. The rest of the contest went Stanford’s way, leading to the comfortable final score line, with Grossman completing a hat trick and Hermann, Jackovich and Yelizarova all picking up one more score apiece. Freshman Jamie Neushul netted the remaining goal.
Overall, Stanford will be pleased with its quality of play after recording another victory over a ranked opponent to extend its perfect start to the season. The outcome of the match was almost never in doubt, apart from a few moments of early jitters in the first period. The Card is beginning to look like a force to be reckoned with in the loaded MPSF.
Stanford will now turn its attention to the weekend’s slate of away games, which will feature a Saturday doubleheader as the Cardinal travels east to face the unranked Pacific Tigers before it heads north to take on the No. 14 UC-Davis Aggies. The Cardinal will be fairly confident going into both games, considering the fact that Pacific is unranked and that it beat UC-Davis 16-3 in the first game of the season during the group stages of the Stanford Invitational.
In that game, Yelizarova notched her first hat trick of the season while junior driver Kiley Neushul had an impressive five goals, kicking off a stellar run of play that helped her net the MPSF Player of the Week award. That same game was also notable for freshman defender Sophia Monaghan, who notched her first collegiate goal.
Pacific (4-6, 0-0 Golden Coast Conference) has endured a tough start to the season, as it has lost all of its matchups against ranked opponents. It played No. 3 UCLA close, losing 12-6, and barely fell to No. 19 Hartwick 10-9. However, it has not played a home game all season, and the crowd in Stockton will surely be hoping to see an upset when the Cardinal visits on Saturday.
The Tigers are led by junior utility players Taylor Adair and Byrdie Pye, both of whom averaged over one and a half goals per contest last season. However, their team should pose no significant threat to Stanford, which has run roughshod over its early-season schedule.
A more difficult test will come in the latter of the day’s two games, when the Cardinal takes on the No. 14 Aggies. The Aggies (5-5, 0-0 Big West) have already notched some impressive wins for the season, including over No. 13 Indiana, No. 16 UC-Santa Barbara and then-No. 20 Michigan. At the Stanford Invitational, they finished 1-3, playing then-No. 6 Hawaii close before losing 9-8 and picking up 7th place with a 9-5 victory over Michigan. They are led by junior attacker Keelia Houston and sophomore center Allyson Hansen. In only their second home game of the season, they will also look to take out Stanford in what should be a fiercely contested matchup.
Overall, it will be a grueling weekend for the Cardinal, playing two games in a span of several hours. However, the team will expect nothing less than two wins, as it hopes to improve its record to a perfect 7-0 on the season. The trip marks the start of a 10-game away slate for the Cardinal, which does not return to the Avery Aquatic Center until March 30 against No. 1 USC.
Contact Dylan Fugel at dfugel ‘at’ stanford.edu.