By Kylie Callan
No. 6 Stanford men’s water polo (12-6, 4-5 MPSF) will travel down to Los Angeles this weekend to take on No. 1 UCLA (24-1, 2-1), No. 2 USC (20-1, 3-0), No. 3 Cal (18-3, 1-2) and Penn State Behrend (0-23, 0-0) in the MPSF Championship Tournament hosted by UCLA. Games will begin Friday at 10 a.m. with Stanford taking on Penn State Behrend before facing USC in the afternoon.
Last year, UCLA won the tournament, with Cal taking second with a 12-11 win in overtime. USC beat University of the Pacific 8-4 to place third, and Stanford triumphed over UC Irvine 17-6, finishing fifth. Stanford won the year before, in 2014, defeating Long Beach State University in the final for its fifth title. In 2013 the Cardinal placed second to USC.
This year, the Cardinal have their work cut out for them, as Berkeley, UCLA and USC are responsible for three of their six losses during the regular season. They have not yet faced Penn State Behrend, who joined the MPSF conference in June.
Stanford played USC on Sept. 17 and lost 8-4. This was due mainly to USC’s strong defensive line, especially junior goalkeeper McQuin Baron, who played with the American Olympic team this summer in Rio. Baron and USC’s defensive line will continue to test Stanford’s offense this weekend.
Stanford traveled to play UCLA on the road on Oct. 29 and was edged out in the final minutes, 7-6. The Cardinal finished their regular season on the road at Cal on Saturday but dropped the game 11-10.
Stanford players to watch for this weekend include junior goalkeeper Oliver Lewis and sophomore driver Blake Parrish. Lewis has a goals-against average (GAA) of 6.83. However, Stanford’s defense will have to work hard to keep up with UCLA’s goalkeeper Garrett Danner, who has a GAA of 5.29, and USC’s Baron, who has a GAA of 4.17. Cal’s Lazar Andric’s GAA is slightly higher than Lewis’ at 6.87.
On offense, Parrish leads Stanford’s team with 40 goals so far this season. Parrish is second in goals this year among all players competing this weekend, as USC’s team leader, junior Blake Edwards, has 37 goals and UCLA’s senior Patrick Fellner has 33. Cal’s Johnny Hooper has the most overall, though, with 57 on the year.
The results from the group stage games on Friday and a game between the fourth- and fifth-place teams on Saturday will determine which teams will compete for third and first place on Sunday. The championship game will be broadcast on Pac-12 Networks on Sunday at 1 p.m.
Contact Kylie Callan at kcallan ‘at’ stanford.edu.