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No.1 Men’s water polo falls in thriller to UCLA

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The No. 1 Stanford (18-3, 4-1 MPSF) men’s water polo team hit the road this past weekend and traveled south to battle the No. 3 UCLA Bruins (21-2, 5-0 MPSF) and the No. 11 Pepperdine Waves (8-10, 0-4 MPSF).

It was a tough day for the top-ranked Cardinal as they were dethroned by the Bruins in a close one-goal game with a final score of 7-6. This weekend was UCLA and Stanford’s third meeting of the season, having previously split wins with one another. UCLA gave the Cardinal its first MPSF loss of the season.

Stanford started the game strong with a goal from junior driver BJ Churnside just a minute into the game. The Bruins had all the answers, however, as they tied things up to end the first quarter and opened the second with two goals, putting them at a 3-1 lead.

Junior driver Adam Abdulhamid stopped the Bruins goal spree halfway into the second quarter but UCLA’s Ryder Roberts netted a goal leaving the score 4-2. Stanford’s sophomore driver Sam Pfeil slid one past the UCLA goalie Garrett Danner on a man advantage to put the Cardinal back within one to close the second half.

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Sophomore driver Jackson Kimbell netted two goals but was unable to prevent the 7-6 loss (NATHAN STAFFA/The Stanford Daily)

Sophomore driver Jackson Kimbell scored off of a nice pass from junior driver Bret Bonanni to open up the second half. Kimbell’s goal tied the game, 4-4.

UCLA then made a three goal run, pouring in two more goals in the third quarter and another to begin the fourth. This gave the Bruins their biggest lead of the game, 7-4.

Stanford was not ready to give up. The Cardinal made a late run in the fourth quarter that just came up short at the end. Towards the end of the final quarter of play, Bonanni netted his first goal of the game off of a powerful shot that was deflected into the goal. Bonanni and Kimbell would connect for a goal again as Kimbell netted a goal with just under a minute to play, putting the Cardinal back within one. Stanford had a nice defensive stop that would give them one last opportunity to score, but a shot from Churnside was blocked with 10 seconds to go.

The Bruins controlled the ball until the clock ran out, defeating the Cardinal in what was a very close contest.

After that very tough loss, the Cardinal traveled to sunny Malibu and bounced back with a commanding win against the Pepperdine Waves.

The Cardinal allowed only four goals from Pepperdine which was no match for their 13. Stanford saw goals from nine different players in the win, three of which were multi-goal efforts.

Stanford scored the first three goals of the game behind Abdulhamid, senior utility Alex Bowen and senior center Conner Cleary. They closed the quarter with a goal from freshman driver Cody Smith, ending it leading 4-1.

The Waves attempted to make a comeback and pulled the score within one but Bonanni would not allow it. He scored the game’s next three goals to make sure the Cardinal stayed ahead. Stanford led 7-4 going into the final quarter of play.

Stanford continued its forceful offense and went on a 6-0 goal run to put the Waves away. The run consisted of goals from redshirt sophomore Griffin Bolan and Churnside, followed by a further two from sophomore driver Reid Chase. Sophomore driver Connor Stapleton would add one and one last goal from Churnside ended the game with a commanding 13-4 win for the Cardinal.

Sophomore goalie Drew Holland had 18 saves in the win.

Stanford returns home next weekend to host Long Beach State on Saturday at Avery Aquatic Center.

Contact Jamie Neushul at jneushul ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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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.