No. 1 Stanford women’s water polo will head into the regular season touting a sixth straight Stanford Invitational tournament victory. After successfully defeating No. 18 UC Davis, No. 6 UC Irvine and No. 7 San Jose State, the Cardinal (5-0) look capable of repeating their NCAA championship run.
The tournament began Saturday morning with a thrashing of UC Davis. The Aggies surrendered six goals in the first period and were unable to recover from the early deficit. Senior 2-meter Ashley Grossman and senior driver Kiley Neushul spearheaded the offensive firepower, totaling nine of Stanford’s goals in the match. The younger Neushul, sophomore driver Jamie, joined in the first quarter rampage with two goals of her own. Junior goalkeeper Gabby Stone made one save in her only quarter in goal, before handing the shutout to senior goalkeeper Emily Dorst to finish the game. Dorst recorded seven saves in the victory; the Aggies managed to net just four of their shots.
The Cardinal showed their diversity in the third quarter with four different players finding the cage for a total of seven unanswered points, driving the score up to a near insurmountable 15-2. Davis managed to tack on two in the final quarter but freshman 2-meter Katie Dudley put the nail in the Davis coffin with her only goal of the game and fourth of the season, leaving the final score at 16-4. The Cardinal pocketed the 12-goal win and advanced to face the UC Irvine Anteaters later that day.
The UC Irvine game appeared to be more of the same, as the Cardinal steamrollered their way to an 11-3 victory. Grossman recorded another goal on the heels of her five-goal performance against Davis and Kiley Neushul added another two to her impressive tournament, but the big scorer for the Card was junior 2-meter defender Anna Yelizarova, who netted a hat trick. Stone stayed in the cage for the entirety of this match, knocking out 10 Anteater attempts. The Cardinal scored at least twice in every quarter of the match and recorded a point in every quarter they played that day. All three of UC Irvine’s goals came in the final quarter and the late effort was not enough to overcome the eight-goal differential.
Stanford began its third game of the tournament Sunday at 8 a.m. against the San Jose State University Spartans. The second top-10 match of the tournament for the Cardinal was their toughest yet. Stanford kicked off the scoring in the second minute off of a penalty shot netted by Yelizarova. Stanford tacked on another just 30 seconds later, Grossman’s seventh of the tournament. San Jose State managed to score two of its own in the first quarter but Stanford added four more, ending the first quarter up 6-2. The second quarter mellowed out a bit with both teams scoring two goals, keeping the deficit even at four points.
The second half began with a quick goal by Stanford, Jamie Neushul’s second of the game. Stanford began to pull away in the third quarter. Junior driver Maggie Steffens and freshman 2-meter defender Jordan Raney tallied two more third-quarter points for Stanford. The Spartans rallied for two of their own but the quarter ended with the Cardinal up 11-6 with their biggest lead of the game. The fourth quarter was the first scoreless quarter of the tournament for Stanford and the Spartans threatened. After five minutes of scoreless play, the Spartans punched one through, narrowing the gap to four points. The next two minutes ticked by without a goal and with 30 seconds left, San Jose State was able to score its eighth and final goal. The final seconds fell off the clock and the game ended with an 11-8 Cardinal victory, allowing the Cardinal to face the No. 2 UCLA Bruins for the title.
Stanford and UCLA faced off for the tournament title last year as well in a tough match. Stanford emerged victorious, displaying incredible defensive ability in the win, holding UCLA to just four goals in the 8-4 finish. This year’s game had the same margin, as Stanford took down the Bruins 10-6 to win this year’s tournament. Up next for the Card is a trip to Fresno to take on Fresno Pacific. That game will be held on Friday, Feb. 14.
Contact Carlie Tenenbaum at carliet ‘at’ stanford.edu.