By Andrew Tan
On Saturday afternoon, No. 2 Stanford women’s water polo (12-1, 2-0 MPSF) returned to form by besting No. 9 Arizona State (9-7, 0-1 MPSF) 10-7 in its first game against a ranked opponent since a tough loss to No. 1 USC. Three players carried the load for Stanford in terms of offensive production. Sophomore Aria Fischer, junior Makenzie Fischer and freshman Ryann Neushul each recorded a hat trick to push the Cardinal over the line.
The match opened in the general track meet fashion to which the Cardinal have become accustomed. Stanford scored three quick goals right out of the gate and appeared to have a win firmly within its grasp very early into the contest. The Sun Devils, however, possessed a blatant disregard for Stanford’s previous success this season and made a determined effort to push the Cardinal and make it work for the victory. Arizona State responded with three scores of its own to knot the game up at three.
First half goals for the Cardinal came from Neushul, senior Kat Klass and Makenzie Fischer.
Out of the break, the teams traded goals until the final minutes of the third quarter when Stanford and Arizona State were deadlocked at 6-6. Neushul completed her hat trick to spark a Cardinal run, scoring a 6-on-5 goal for the lead, then rattling the cage three minutes later in the fourth quarter.
Aria and Makenzie would also score in the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach and secure the win for Stanford.
The tight contest against the Sun Devils was the first time all season that the Cardinal received significant pushback from an opponent and overcame the pressure. Throughout the season, it has appeared that the only team that could truly push the Cardinal was USC, who did just that a couple weeks ago with a narrow win over Stanford in Irvine. The resilience and mettle Stanford developed in Saturday’s game against Arizona State, though the Cardinal were favored to win, may prove invaluable in future games between the team and its southern California rival.
Stanford and USC remain on a crash course for the MPSF Tournament and the subsequent NCAA Championships if both teams continue their rampant dismantling of opponents. Nonetheless, Stanford must still win these games against inferior competition to secure favorable seeding in postseason play.
The win marked Stanford’s second conference victory and extended an undefeated all-time record against Arizona State to 26-0. The Cardinal now enter a long break until it resumes play against Harvard at home on March 23 at noon.
Contact Andrew Tan at tandrew ‘at’ stanford.edu.