With five players notching hat tricks, No. 2 Stanford women’s water polo (18-1, 3-0 MPSF) dominated No. 9 San Jose State (18-8, 0-4), beating the Spartans 23-6.
Stanford’s top three scorers, senior Kiley Neushul, senior Ashley Grossman and junior Maggie Steffens, once again led the Cardinal’s powerhouse offense, contributing their eighth, seventh and fifth hat tricks of the season, respectively.
Sophomore Jamie Neushul and junior Gurpreet Sohi completed the quintet of Stanford players who scored 3 apiece against SJSU. Junior Rachel Johnson and freshman Jordan Raney also scored 2 each, all of which were in the third quarter.
Stanford came out with two straight goals, but the Spartans answered back with a goal of their own, making the game 2-1 at the 6:23 mark. Stanford would build upon its lead after this point, going up 7-2 after the first quarter and scoring its 10th goal with 4:39 left to play in the second quarter.
Going into the final period, Stanford held a commanding 20-5 lead, and completed the game with goals from freshman Katie Dudley, Grossman and Jamie Neushul.
The team’s 23 goals tie the season high recorded just a few weeks ago, when the Cardinal beat Harvard 23-7. Before that game, the program had not notched that many goals since 2010.
“[The squad’s 23 goals and the five players’ hat tricks] just shows how much of a team we are,” Grossman said. “Assists are often more important than the goals, and we’ve been watching video and the passes made leading to those goals are crisp and perfect. That I think is the reason why so many girls scored and why so many different girls scored throughout the game and it shows how strong of a team we are.”
Stanford’s defense, which has been stellar this season, thwarted the Spartans’ offense from doing much in the pool: Not only did the Spartans’ 27 shots result in only 6 goals, but in the second half the team was held to only two total goals. The Cardinal limited SJSU’s Ciara Espar Llaquet, who prior to the game had 79 goals, to only one score the entire match. Junior goalkeeper Gabby Stone also defended the cage well, making 5 saves.
In what will surely be an intense match, Stanford will next host No. 1 UCLA. The teams have split games earlier this season: Stanford came out with a 10-6 win in the final round of the Stanford Invitational, while UCLA responded with a 7-6 overtime victory during the UC Irvine Invitational, dethroning Stanford from its perch at No. 1 in the national rankings.
On the line for these two water polo powerhouses is not only momentum going into the last few games before MPSF tournament play, but also bragging rights in what has become one of the most intense rivalries in the sport.
“Obviously they are only loss of the season so far and that was awhile ago, so we put it in our back pocket at that time,” Grossman said. “We had a lot of other games to focus on but now we’re super excited because it’s finally time to play them again.”
“We’re going to prepare really hard this week and have some fun with it though and not put too much pressure on ourselves,” she added.
The Stanford-UCLA matchup will take place at Avery Aquatic Center on Saturday, April 11 at noon.
Contact Alexa Philippou at aphil723 ‘at’ stanford.edu.