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Water polo beats Princeton to advance in NCAAs

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Stanford opened the NCAA tournament earlier today with a 7-2 win against the Princeton Tigers. Though the final score was closer than many anticipated the Cardinal looked comfortably in charge for the entirety of the game.

Just over two minutes into the match, junior Maggie Steffens put the Cardinal on the board. The goal sparked what would be a hat trick for Steffens, completed within the first ten minutes of play. From there, Stanford’s momentum only grew. Senior Kiley Neushul won all four sprints of the match, allowing the Cardinal to set the pace of each period. This pace was quick and relentless.

The second quarter was standout for Stanford. The team scored four unanswered goals including the completion of Steffen’s hat trick and the first two of Neushul’s. Much of Princeton’s defensive success falls on the enormous wingspan of goalkeeper Ashley Johnson.

Johnson, who knows Stanford’s offensive powerhouses Neushul and Steffens personally, knocked away eighteen shots. The former national team teammates battled it out in a truly spectacular showdown as Johnson deflected tricky attempts from the Stanford duo. Steffens commented on playing against Johnson, “We have a lot of respect for Ashley.” She continued, “It’s always fun to play against people that you’ve had the opportunity to play with. It brings you back.”

“However, when you get in the water I’m in a red cap, she’s in a white cap,” Steffens said, returning to competition. She highlighted the defensive game of Stanford as the best part of their game today. A typically overwhelming offense, Stanford’s seven goal total today was very low for them. “We hope to put some more balls in the net,” Steffens said, speaking to the game tomorrow.

“Gabby had some awesome saves,” Neushul concurred. Today’s match moved Neushul to third on Stanford’s all time scoring list, but she says that’s not the sort of thing she pays attention to. Neushul expressed the standard Stanford attitude of “we need to focus on what’s next at hand, we’re ready,” as much more important than her individual accolades.

Regardless of the uncharacteristically low score today, the Cardinal is excited to move forward to their next opportunity. “Every chance you’ve got, you’ve got to learn from your mistakes,” Steffens commented. This will mostly be recovering the tenacious offensive rhythm the Card has been playing with all year. It will also mean maintaining the offense. Today;s match featured six Cardinal goals in the first half, and only one in the second half. Conversely, both of Princeton’s strikes came in the second half, one in each quarter.

Tomorrow’s match will be against the winner of the Hawaii-USC matchup. Stanford has faced USC twice this season, beating them both times, and hasn’t matched up against Hawaii at all. But regardless, head coach John Tanner concluded with “tomorrow is gonna be awesome.”

Contact Carlie Tenenbaum at carliet ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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I’m Carlie Tenenbaum and I’m a sophomore. I’m from San Diego, born and raised, but love life up here on the Farm. I’m a political science major by day, and a sports writer off the clock. I cover field hockey, women’s lacrosse, and bits of both men’s and women’s water polo. I played both field hockey and lacrosse in high school and love staying connected to the sports through writing.