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Men’s water polo moves towards postseason with two wins

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No. 2 Stanford (22-3) finished off its regular season this past week with two wins and a 22-3 overall record, going 7-1 in MPSF play.

Stanford’s first win was a comfortable 22-5 victory over Santa Clara on Wednesday. It was the second time this season that Stanford reached the 20-goal mark, receiving goals from 10 different scorers, seven of whom had multi-goal efforts. The Cardinal were lights out from the outset, with two goals each from senior utility Alex Bowen and freshman driver Cody Smith, along with another from senior center Conner Cleary. Stanford led 5-0 after the first quarter of play.

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Freshman driver Cody Smith had a fantastic weekend, notching four goals against Santa Clara and a further goal against Pacific (NATHAN STAFFA/The Stanford Daily)

Stanford didn’t stop there. Eight more goals were scored in the second quarter by Bowen, Smith, junior driver Bret Bonanni, junior driver Adam Abdulhamid, sophomore driver Reid Chase and sophomore utility Justin Roberto, and Stanford led Santa Clara 13-2 going into the half. The second half would only contain further domination, with nine further goals being scored and the Cardinal coasting for the win.

Just days after Stanford’s Santa Clara slaughter, it went on to claim an 11-8 victory at home in the Avery Aquatic Center over the No. 7 Pacific Tigers to end their regular season. The Cardinal’s three seniors, Conner Cleary, Nick Hoversten and Alex Bowen, were honored before the start of the game.

Stanford had a difficult first half, relying on their firepower to win late in the game. This was despite the fact that the Cardinal dominated the first quarter of play to take an early 4-1 lead over the Tigers. Abdulhamid scored both of his two goals of the game in the first quarter and was joined by Cleary and Smith, who each had a goal.

After surrendering that early lead, the Tigers were not ready to give up yet. Pacific won the second quarter, outscoring the Cardinal four goals to two and changing the momentum of the game. The Tigers closed the half only trailing 6-5. The third quarter was low-scoring, and Stanford posted the only goal of the period to take a 7-5 lead before the start of the fourth.

That’s when the Cardinal went to work and pulled away from the Tigers. Pacific opened up the quarter with a goal in the first minute, but had no answer for the renewed Stanford offense.

To kick it off, goalkeeper Drew Holland found Bonanni for a goal off of a long pass from the cage in a connection that is becoming familiar to Cardinal fans. Bonanni’s goal was followed up by another from sophomore driver Jackson Kimbell, who scored his first of the game. The final goal of the spurt came from sophomore utility Connor Stapleton on the counter off of a pass from Bowen, who fought off a double team, giving the Cardinal its biggest lead of the day at 11-7.

“That completely changed the momentum of the game,” Kimbell said of the scoring outburst. “It was going to be hard for them to answer.”

The Tigers got one more goal from Michael Woodbury with just 29 seconds left on the clock, but Stanford controlled possession of the ball for the remainder of the game to secure its 11-8 victory.

Stanford will move into postseason play following an impressive regular season. The Cardinal travel to Long Beach, California for the upcoming MPSF tournament next weekend. Stanford solidified its hold on the No. 2 seed in the tournament after head-to-head wins over USC and Long Beach State and will compete in the quarterfinals at 1:30 p.m. on Nov. 21.

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.