After routing No. 22 CSU Bakersfield (13-17, 0-6 MPSF) 14-2 and edging No. 3 USC (28-3, 4-2) 6-5 to advance to the Championship Game of the MPSF tournament this weekend, No. 2 Stanford women’s water polo (20-3, 5-1) was outmuscled by the top-ranked UCLA Bruins (21-1, 6-0) 6-3 on Sunday and finished second.
On Sunday, Rachel Fattal scored the first goal of the game for the Bruins on her way to a hat-trick. Senior Dani Jackovich responded with a goal for the Cardinal with a minute left in the first quarter, but UCLA would get back in the lead after scoring on a 6-on-5 play with 43 seconds left.
Thanks to great teamwork in the second quarter, the Cardinal were able to gain their only lead of the game at 3-2. Sophomore Madison Berggren tied things up at two apiece entering the period, and junior Jordan Raney scored the go-ahead goal off a feed from senior Maggie Steffens. Fattal posted her second score on another power play to tie the game before halftime.
In the second half, UCLA dominated the game, scoring only three times but blanking the Cardinal. Held scoreless in the final 20:47 of the game, the Cardinal scored their fewest goals since Feb. 7, 2016. The Cardinal didn’t look the same as in their 6-5 win against USC the day before, as they allowed UCLA to go 3-for-7 on power plays, while going 1-for-7 themselves.
On Friday morning, Stanford cruised to an easy victory against CSUB thanks to an unstoppable offense. Steffens tallied four scores for the Cardinal, and junior Katie Dudley added three goals to record her third hat-trick of the season.
The Cardinal started fast, scoring the first seven goals of the contest, including five in the opening period, to jump to an unsurmountable 7-0 lead. While Berggren, freshman Makenzie Fischer, Jackovich and Dudley each scored in the first quarter, the second period was all Steffens, as the senior scored three of the Cardinal’s four scores in the frame. Although CSU Bakersfield scored their only two goals of the game in the second, sophomore Kat Klass scored right before the half to put Stanford ahead 9-2 at the break. The Cardinal would not relinquish their lead, blanking CSUB in the second part of the game to win it 14-2.
After senior Gabby Stone posted a pair of saves in the opening quarter, she was replaced by junior Julia Hermann who helped the Cardinal complete a second-half shutout with two saves of her own.
On Saturday, Fischer and Raney were the ones leading the Cardinal offense, scoring a combined four of the team’s six goals. In a dominant first frame, the Cardinal were able to convert defense into offense in order to take a 3-1 lead. Klass scored the first Cardinal goal on the first possession of the game, and Raney added another goal at 3:17 on Stanford’s first 6-on-5 attempt after the Trojans tied the game at one apiece. As the quarter closed, Stone came up with a save to preserve the Cardinal lead and passed it ahead to Fischer. The freshman assisted Steffens in order to put the Cardinal ahead by two.
After a scoreless second quarter for both teams, USC came out firing in the third, scoring three times in the first four minutes in order to tie things up 4-4. During that span, Stanford’s only goal came from Raney, but Fischer would put the Cardinal back on top as she scored Stanford’s final two goals. The Olympian’s pair of goals sandwiched a steal by junior Shannon Cleary late in the third. Cleary’s defensive performance throughout the game helped the Cardinal force USC to a 1-for-5 performance on power plays.
Stanford’s defense once again came up big in the final seconds of the game. The team was able to force USC to a shot clock violation with 51 seconds remaining in the contest, denying the Trojans an attempt to tie the game at 6-6. The Cardinal was then able to run the clock in order to advance to the finals.
Despite winning four of the past six national titles, the Cardinal have won the MPSF crown only once in that span. Stanford expects to come back stronger in the NCAA tournament which starts on May 12 in Indianapolis.
Contact Alexandre Bucquet at bucqueta ‘at’ stanford.edu.