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Stanford comes back to win the Big Splash

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No. 2 Stanford men’s water polo (20-3, 6-1 MPSF) picked up their ninth Steve Heaston Trophy on Saturday in their 11-9 victory over No. 5 California (20-5, 4-3 MPSF) in the Big Splash at Berkeley. The trophy is named after the former Cal coach who led the Bears to three straight NCAA titles and passed away from brain cancer in 1999. Stanford leads Cal in the Big Splash and Steve Heaston series 9-7. This was also the two teams’ third meeting of the season, with the victory putting Stanford ahead 2-1.

The victory was no easy feat for the Cardinal. Stanford was trailing the Bears 8-7 heading into the final quarter of play, but junior driver Bret Bonanni and senior utility Alex Bowen made sure the Cardinal came out on top. Bowen scored both of his two goals of the game in the fourth quarter to give the Cardinal their second and final lead of the game at 9-8.

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Senior Alex Bowen scored a crucial two goals in the fourth quarter to key the Card’s comeback in the Big Splash (FRANK CHEN/The Stanford Daily)

Then Bonanni went to work, scoring the next two goals of the game and extending Stanford’s lead to its biggest of the game at 11-8. Both goals were breakaways, one off of a Cal shot fired off of the post and the other off of a long assist pass from sophomore goalkeeper Drew Holland.

Holland finished the game with nine saves.

Bonanni faced the Cal goalie one-on-one many times in the game, on breakaways and a penalty shot. The junior was stopped on a penalty shot by Cal’s goalkeeper Jon Sibley, who finished with 12 saves in the game,  but put away both shots in their two other meetings.

Cal was able to put up its one and only goal of the quarter following Stanford’s surge, but time ran out for the Bears and the Cardinal walked away with an 11-9 victory and the Steve Heaston trophy in hand. The win was Stanford’s second consecutive Big Splash victory. The Bears dominated most of the first half of the game, always leading until right before halftime when the Cardinal tied the game at 6-6.

Stanford’s only other lead of the game came in the third quarter from another Bonanni goal that put them ahead 7-6.

Bonanni finished the game with a team-high, game-high five goals, yet Stanford still managed to share its wealth among many different players. Saturday’s game featured six different scorers for the Cardinal. In addition to Bonanni’s five and Bowen’s two, junior Adam Abdulhamid, sophomore driver Connor Stapleton, freshman driver Cody Smith and junior driver BJ Churnside each added one goal.

The victory marked a major success for the Cardinal as they enter the final games of their regular season and approach postseason play.

Stanford is back in action on Wednesday as it visits Santa Clara at 6 p.m. and once again on Saturday against Pacific (13-10, 1-5 MPSF) at home in the Avery Aquatic Center at noon.

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.