The No. 1 women’s water polo team (4-0) will return to its home pool at Avery Aquatic Center for the first time since winning the 2015 NCAA Championship this past May, when it hosts the 2016 Stanford Invitational Saturday and Sunday.
After sweeping their season-opening tournament two weekends ago, the Cardinal will open up their 2016 campaign at home with four games in a two-day span. On Saturday the team will face No. 7 Michigan and No. 8 San Jose State before closing out the tournament on Sunday against No. 15 Loyola Marymount and either No. 5 Cal, No. 8 UC Davis, No. 10 UC Irvine or No. 12 Pacific, depending on how things shake out with the earlier results.
While the Cardinal emerged from the LouStrong Memorial Tournament with a perfect record and a series of solid wins on paper, including a 19-1 blowout over Cal State Monterey Bay, the team displayed some early-season hiccups — particularly turnovers on offense — that it will look to eliminate going into this weekend.
“We were a little ragged especially on offense and disconnected and just a lot of misunderstandings that led to turnovers that left us vulnerable on defense,” head coach John Tanner said. “Defensively I thought we were good in terms of one-on-one defense but we’re going to need to be a lot better in terms of unity this weekend on the defensive end.”
That being said, Stanford won all of its games by at least five goals and was still able to dominate its opponents by a combined score of 56-22, with a combined 16 goals coming from junior All-American Jamie Neushul and freshman Kat Klass, both of whom notched 8 apiece.
Klass, who was named MPSF/Kap7 Newcomer of the Week after her dominant performance, recorded a hat trick in her first career game and 4 more goals in her next one.
“Kat [Klass] was a great goal-scorer in high school and she’s not been timid about taking opportunities on offense,” Tanner said. “She’s just a great goal-scorer, so we expected that she’d be good on the offensive end.”
Aside from Klass, there is an entire team capable of putting points on the board for the Cardinal: 15 of Stanford’s 17 available players (excluding its goalie) scored in the LouStrong Tournament, with nine players recording at least 3 goals.
And while Stanford will certainly have to find ways to get the ball into the net to win games, Tanner’s objectives for the weekend don’t simply revolve around who scores and how many.
“The idea is just play consistently regardless who’s in, regardless whether we’re on offense, defense, in transition,” he said.
While the Cardinal will be facing Michigan and LMU for the first times this season, it defeated San Jose State 10-5 in its most recent game, which featured 3 goals from Neushul and 2 apiece from sophomore Jordan Raney and senior Gurpreet Sohi. While Stanford could also face UC Davis and Pacific on Sunday, the more intriguing option for the matchup would be against the Golden Bears, a top-five team that has gone 7-1 so far this season.
“All of them [the teams in the tournament] have a lot of weapons,” Tanner said. “The teams we’re playing against this weekend all have maybe not great depth but they have a really good starting group… and play really sound water polo.”
Regardless of the opponent, Stanford’s opposition will also be motivated to take down the No. 1 team in the country and defending national champion on its home turf.
“I’m sure they’ll be eager to get after us,” Tanner said.
Contact Alexa Philippou at aphil723 ‘at’ stanford.edu.