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Men’s water polo takes third in tough SoCal Tournament


No. 2 Stanford (15-2, 1-0 MPSF) traveled south to the SoCal Tournament hosted by UCLA this past weekend, finishing in third place. The Card were among all the nation’s top teams, including No. 1 UCLA.

The Cardinal opened with solid wins against No. 16 Loyola Marymount, 21-7, and No. 7 Pacific, 12-6.

Freshman driver Cody Smith had an outstanding performance in the first game against LMU, posting a season-high six goals, but he left the scoring to others in the first quarter as both junior driver Bret Bonanni and senior utility Alex Bowen each posted two goals. Sophomore driver Reid Chase also added his first of two goals in this quarter, but LMU’s Milutin Mitrovic posted a hat trick to keep the score close at 5-3.

Cody Smith notched a game-high six goals. (NATHAN STAFFA/THE STANFORD DAILY)

The Cardinal went to work in the second quarter with goals from junior driver BJ Churnside, another from Bonanni, one from sophomore driver Connor Stapleton and three from Smith. Stanford led the Lions 11-3 at halftime.

Stanford’s defensive front held the Lions scoreless until the end of the third quarter. They had 10 unanswered goals at that point and a commanding lead, allowing them to cruise to the 21-7 victory. Defensively, sophomore goal keeper Drew Holland anchored the Card with seven saves over three quarters.

The second game was much closer for the Cardinal as it defeated Pacific 12-6 with 10 different Stanford players posting goals in the victory.

Stanford scored twice in the initial quarter behind goals from junior driver Adam Abdulhamid and senior utility Nick Hoversten. Goals from Pacific’s Tim Reeves and Simon Vogel tied the teams 2-2 at the end of the first quarter.

The Cardinal, once again, had a forceful second quarter with four unanswered goals, extending its lead to 6-2. Bonanni had his first of two goals and Abdulhamid added his second of the game. Fifth-year two-meter Connor Cleary and Smith also found the back of the cage before halftime.

Pacific scored to open the third quarter only to be answered right back by Bonanni for his second goal of the game. Goals from sophomore driver Connor Stapleton and Chase put Stanford up four, 9-5, after three quarters.

The fourth quarter featured goals from Stanford’s Bowen, Churnside and junior two-meter Griffin Bolan, answered by a lone Tiger goal, leaving the Cardinal with another victory, 12-6. Churnside’s goal was the 100th of his Stanford water polo career.

The second day of the tournament was much more challenging than the first for Stanford. In the semi-final match on Sunday, Stanford fell to the No. 3 California Golden Bears 11-7 for their second loss of the 2014 season. Cal turned the tables on the Cardinal, who beat the Bears 11-8 earlier in the season.

Bonanni posted two goals in the first quarter to answer Cal’s two and Smith converted a penalty to draw the two teams even at 3-3, but Bonanni’s impressive three-goal performance could not overcome a forceful, four-goal second quarter from the Bears. Bowen scored Stanford’s only goal early in the second quarter, after which Cal scored four unanswered goals to lead 7-4 going into halftime.

The Cardinal did not have an answer for Cal, never coming within three goals for the rest of the game.  Two goals from Churnside and another from Bonanni could not match the offensive surge by the Bears that gave them the 11-7 victory.

The Cardinal bounced back with a 7-6 victory over No. 1 UCLA to end the tournament with a third place finish, handing the Bruins their second loss of the season.

Bonanni and Abdulhamid each posted goals for Stanford in the first quarter to be answered with one UCLA goal from Chancellor Ramirez, putting the score at 2-1.

Abdulhamid scored again in the second quarter, stretching the Cardinal’s lead to 3-1, but two Bruin goals evened the score at 3-3. Goals from Bonanni and Hoversten would put the Cardinal in the lead 5-3 at halftime.

Bonanni scored in the third, but UCLA’s Alex Roelse answered, leaving the score at 6-4 going into the final quarter of play.

A Bruin goal to start the fourth quarter pulled them within one, but Stanford’s Hoversten answered, restoring the two goal lead at 7-5.

One more goal from UCLA’s Cristiano Mirarchi was not enough for the Bruins as Stanford finished the tournament with a 7-6 victory.

Up next, Stanford returns home to Avery Aquatic Center, where they will face six-time defending NCAA champion USC in a critical MPSF match. The No. 4 Trojans won their third consecutive SoCal Tournament championship with a 10-9 victory over Cal.

Contact Jamie Neushul at jneushul ‘at’ 

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Jamie Neushul works on water polo coverage for The Daily. She is on the women's water polo team in her sophomore year here at Stanford. She is a double major in Communication and English and aspires to pursue a career in journalism or possibly go to law school. She is from Santa Barbara, California and loves to go to the beach and surf.