Second-ranked Stanford women’s water polo (18-2, 5-1 MPSF) opens its postseason on Friday as it gets ready to face No. 22 CSU Bakersfield (12-15, 0-6) in the first round of the MPSF championships in Los Angeles.
The Cardinal, who crushed the Roadrunners 19-2 earlier this season, would face USC (26-2, 4-2) if victorious before meeting UCLA (20-1, 6-0) in the finals. This season, the Cardinal is 1-1 against the Women of Troy, while it has lost its only game to UCLA.
Entering the tournament as the second overall seed behind top-ranked UCLA, the Cardinal are looking to earn their first conference title since 2014. The Cardinal have made 13 appearances in the championship game since 1997, bringing back five titles to the Farm. Overall, Stanford is 48-17 in MPSF tournament play.
As per usual, this year’s tournament will most likely be decided between UCLA, Stanford and USC, the top three teams entering the weekend. While third-ranked USC came away with the title last season in an 8-5 win over the Cardinal in the final, the Women of Troy have had a difficult end to their season: Stanford snapped their 52-game winning streak in Los Angeles before the Bruins handed the team their second season loss last week.
Stanford also fell to UCLA earlier this season when the Bruins edged the Cardinal 10-9 in Avery. Bouncing back during senior night, Stanford earned a 17-3 victory over San Jose State last week. Led by a game-high four scores each from seniors Jamie Neushul and Jordan Raney, the Cardinal showcased the characteristic offensive firepower they seemed to lack against UCLA.
Offensively, senior Maggie Steffens leads the Cardinal with 50 goals this season. Steffens has notched a hat trick in four of Stanford’s five regular-season MPSF wins and is now tied for fourth-best scorer in program history with 214 scores. Freshman Makenzie Fischer seems to follow the footsteps of her fellow Olympian, posting 44 goals in her first collegiate season as the second-best scorer for the Cardinal.
On the other end of the pool, senior Gabby Stone has been efficiently protecting the Cardinal goal, notching 129 saves over the season and passing the 500-saves mark earlier this year.
The action starts at UCLA Friday at 11 a.m.
Contact Alexandre Bucquet at bucqueta ‘at’ stanford.edu.