By Alex Bhatt
On Thursday, No. 3 Stanford Men’s water polo (17-3, 2-1 MPSF) stunned No. 1 California (18-2, 2-1 MPSF) in an 11-10 victory during the annual Big Splash at Avery Aquatic Center.
The Cardinal looked to avenge their 9-11 loss to Cal at the Mountain Pacific Invitational in late September. Since the loss, the Card have won an unprecedented eleven straight games including those against high-ranking divisional rivals such as UCLA and, now, California.
Moreover, with their eleventh win in a row, the Cardinal brought the Steve Heaston Trophy back to the Farm for the first time in three years. The trophy is named for iconic Cal Bear men’s water polo coach Steve Heaston and is awarded to the winner of the match between Cal and Stanford.
The Big Splash itself started quickly with Stanford gaining a 3-2 lead in the first five minutes of the game. Freshman Sawyer Rhodes scored two back-to-back goals while senior Cody Smith also scored very early on in the match. The two schools continued to battle in the water and ended the first quarter with a score of 4-4. Nevertheless, it was California that would strike next as they scored two goals to make the score 6-4 midway through the second quarter.
With less than thirty seconds to go, however, sophomore Bennett Williams shot and scored through the hands of California goalkeeper Kevin Le Vine. At halftime, Stanford trailed Cal 6-5. However, the second half would be a different story for the Cardinal.
Within the first minute of the second half, senior Connor Stapleton tied the score at 6-6. With two goals scored already in the first half, Stapleton would join Rhodes as one of the two Stanford players to end the game with a hat trick.
Later in the third, Smith found junior Marco Stanchi who then found the back of the net to give Stanford a 7-6 lead. California would respond and tie the score at 7, but freshman Ben Hallock scored a no-look goal to give the Cardinal an 8-7. Last week, the freshman was also awarded the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Newcomer of the Week for the third time this season.
Stanford would continue to score three more goals to Cal’s one to make the score 11-8.
California showed they would not be put down so easily, and the Golden Bears attempted to rally, narrowing the score to 11-10 with a mere 3:26 to play in the fourth quarter.
With 19 seconds remaining of play, the Golden Bears took possession in attempt to tie up the game. Nevertheless, the Stanford Cardinal defense persisted and, after a shot wide by California, ran out the clock to give the Cardinal undoubtedly their biggest win of the season.
The stalwart defense was led by Senior Drew Holland who, already breaking the record for saves earlier in the season, recorded another 14 throughout the game.
With the defeat of the Golden Bears on Thursday, Stanford remains undefeated at home this season (7-0).
Stanford will close the regular season with a match-up at home against Santa Clara on Saturday, Nov 11 at noon.
Contact Alex Bhatt at abhatt21 ‘at’ stanford.edu.