No. 1 Stanford women’s water polo (8-0) makes the short trek to Irvine, California this weekend to compete in the Barbara Kalbus Invitational. The top-seeded Cardinal open tournament play against No. 22 CSUN, with the latter rounds dependent on the team’s early performance.
Stanford has gotten off to a breezy start this season with an average margin of victory of over 10 goals in its first eight games, including a 19-1 rout of Santa Clara last weekend.
The field in Irvine, however, is elite from top to bottom, as all 16 teams are ranked and 12 of the top 15 teams in the country will be in attendance. Perennial Cardinal rivals No. 2 USC and No. 3 UCLA — both undefeated — will be in the pool this weekend, as well as No. 4 Cal, the only team to challenge the Cardinal in a game that ended 10-7 for Stanford earlier this season.
With USC positioned on the other side of the bracket, a tantalizing rematch of the 2016 NCAA title game looms in the final; however, Stanford will have to dispatch of several top-notch clubs in order to make it that far and retain its status as the top team in the country.
Key to Stanford’s success this weekend will be team goal-leaders Makenzie Fischer, Maggie Steffens and Jamie Neushul. Fischer is fresh off a five-goal outing against Santa Clara that earned the freshman MPSF Newcomer of the Week honors. Meanwhile, veteran seniors Steffens and Neushul continue tacking on to their triple-digit career counts.
Goalkeeping has been a collaborative effort between seniors Julia Hermann and Gabby Stone this season, though Stone has earned the starting nod in five of the team’s eight games and has been slightly more consistent, recording 9.6 saves and allowing just 4.0 shots to find the net per game.
CSUN, Stanford’s first opponent of the weekend, is off to a 9-9 start this season, with all of its losses coming against ranked teams. The Cardinal must seek to contain star junior Madeleine Sanchez, who has accounted for nearly a quarter of the Matadors’ goals this season with 38 and a .437 shooting percentage.
Stanford will begin its bid to remain unbeaten and claim its fourth Kalbus Invitational crown this Friday at 10 a.m. against the Matadors, with three more matches slated for the weekend.
Contact Neel Ramachandran at neelr ‘at’ stanford.edu.