There are few teams that have as much history in the past five years as the Stanford and USC women’s water polo teams. Saturday will be a chapter that the Cardinal will choose to forget, as No.3 Stanford (19-3, 4-1 MPSF) fell 8-3 to No. 1 USC (20-0, 5-0 MPSF).
Stanford never managed to gain their footing, with USC kicking out to a 3-0 lead in the first two quarters and never relinquishing control. Stanford senior Anna Yelizarova scored the Cardinal’s first goal of the game, lobbing the ball over the right shoulder of the USC keeper with 4:48 remaining in the second quarter to kick off Stanford’s offensive campaign.
The game continued to be marked by back-and-forth scoring, but the Cardinal were unable to overcome the large initial deficit. Freshman Kat Klass and sophomore Jordan Raney also recorded goals. Raney’s blast into the top left corner to give the Cardinal one last point was the highlight of a game marked by missed opportunities.
The goal net’s bar was not a friend to the Cardinal, with three crucial scoring attempts deflected and bouncing away from the back of the net. USC relied on their consistent offensive weapons, with junior driver Stephania Haralabidis recording 2 goals that marked her 49th and 50th goals of the season. For comparison, the Cardinal’s top scorer is junior Jamie Neushul, who has scored 39 goals in regular season play and was shut out on Saturday.
Against top offensive talent, junior keeper Julia Hermann still managed an impressive goaltending performance. Although USC recorded 8 goals, Hermann registered 7 saves on the day with a few impressive deflections that stopped the deficit from growing. An important difference for each team was their ability to convert man-up chances. Stanford went 0-7 over the four quarters while USC managed to convert with an important power play goal 3 minutes after opening the second half to go up 4-1 and maintain the momentum.
Saturday also marked the Cardinal’s senior day, with seniors Rachel Johnson, Gurpreet Sohi and Anna Yelizarova honored for their contributions to the program. The team has won back to back national championships and earned a 98-9 record during the trio’s time on the Farm, and will look to compete for a third straight national title as the Cardinal move into the postseason.
Next up for Stanford is their final regular season match, an away game against No. 2 UCLA. The game will be an important test for the team, and provide valuable experience for what is certain to be an explosive post-season between the west-coast powerhouses of Stanford, USC, and UCLA.
The matchup will start at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday April 23 at UCLA, and will be broadcast on Pac-12 Networks.
Contact Amanda McLean at ammclean ‘at’ stanford.edu.