There were no days off this spring break for Stanford women’s water polo as the team earned statement wins over MPSF opponents CSU Bakersfield and California. Riding career-best performances from veterans Maggie Steffens and Gabby Stone, the Cardinal women extended their winning streak to five and moved to 16-1 on the season (3-0 MPSF), entering the final stretch of the season in full throttle.
After a month and a half of away competition, Stanford returned to the familiar waters of Avery Aquatic Center on March 25 to take on struggling conference opponent CSU Bakersfield (12-13, 0-5 MPSF). The second-ranked Cardinal came out firing early on, opening up a 7-0 lead behind a first-quarter hat trick from Steffens that squashed any hope of a Roadrunners upset.
Even with an insurmountable lead, Steffens kept the intensity high en route to a career-high seven goals. Junior Katie Dudley added a hat trick of her own while eight more players found the back of the net for Stanford to make the final score 19-2.
While the Stanford offense conjured highlight after highlight, the defense was equally remarkable, allowing just one goal in the second and third quarters apiece. The Cardinal shut out the Roadrunners on their four power plays, including a 6-on-4 opportunity. Stone recorded eight stops in three quarters before letting Julia Hermann take over goalkeeping duties in the fourth.
The Cardinal made the short trip across the Bay on April 2 to take on archrival No. 5 Cal (13-6, 1-3) in the annual Big Splash. It was the third meeting this season between the teams; Stanford defeated the Golden Bears on both previous occasions in invitational play though neither counted towards conference standings.
After winning 12 of their first 13 games, Cal had limped to a 1-4 record in its last five games, lacking the offensive firepower that had characterized the first half of its season.
Stanford took quick advantage, jumping to a 3-0 lead after the first behind two goals from Steffens. Cal would manage just one goal in first half, as Steffens and freshman Makenzie Fischer completed hat tricks to push the final score to 8-2.
Stanford’s defense was effective in limiting chances by the Cal offense, holding the Bears to 1-for-7 on 5-on-6 chances. However, it was Stone who stole the show in the cage as the senior recorded 15 saves to tie her personal best. The outing pushed her career total to 506, as she became the fourth player in program history to eclipse the 500 mark.
Steffens’ offensive onslaught over the pair of games rounded out a phenomenal month in which she has averaged 3.3 goals per game to reach a career goal total of 210. The senior driver finds herself just 30 goals short of Stanford’s all-time record with three regular season games and a likely slew of conference and tournament postseason games remaining.
The victory kept Stanford undefeated in conference play and atop the standings along with No. 1 USC and No. 3 UCLA. The three-way tie won’t last for long, however, as Stanford will play at USC this weekend before taking on the Bruins on April 15.
Contact Neel Ramachandran at neelr ‘at’ stanford.edu.