By James Hemker
Hot off their first win against USC in over a year, the No. 1 women’s water polo team (15-1, 3-0 MPSF) returns home to do battle with No. 3 UCLA (20-3, 3-0 MPSF) on Saturday. After the overtime win against the Trojans, the Cardinal moved out of the No. 2 spot and regained the top ranking in the country for the first time in almost a full year.
The meeting against the Bruins will be the team’s fifth consecutive ranked matchup. In those last four games, the Cardinal have overwhelmed the competition, outscoring opponents 55-29.
Stanford boasts the most productive offense in the MPSF, averaging 16.81 goals a game. In terms of raw numbers, only USC, who has played in five more contests, has scored more goals (302) than the Cardinal (269).
Six of the top thirteen conference goal scorers (by goals-per-game) all sport the Stanford “S” on their caps. Junior Makenzie Fischer is head and shoulders above the rest of the field, averaging four goals a game, which is more than a goal better than second place.
Currently sitting at 60 goals, Fischer would end with 76 goals if she maintains her average output through the end of the regular season. That figure would be good enough for second-most goals scored in a single season by a Stanford woman.
Sophomores Sarah Klass and Aria Fischer both make the MPSF’s top-ten at seventh and ninth place, averaging 2.06 and 1.93 goals-per-game, respectively. In the past four games, Klass has been relatively quiet with just four goals, but the Fischer sisters have combined for 23 of the 55 goals scored.
Holding spots 11-13 in the conference are sophomore Madison Berggren (1.70), senior Kat Klass (1.67) and freshman Madison Stamen (1.63).
To complement the best offense in conference is the second best defense. Going by goals allowed per game, the Cardinal (5.94) are topped only by the Trojans (4.14). Redshirt sophomore Emalia Eichelberger has been a veritable wall in front of the goal, ranking third in saves per game with 9.36.
The last time Stanford and UCLA met, the Cardinal scored the first five goals en route to a 10-4 victory at the Kalbus Invitational at the end of February. The Bruins last topped Stanford two years ago in the 2017 MPSF Championship game. Stanford then rallied and beat UCLA in the NCAA title game to claim the team’s most recent national championship.
The Bruins have the third best offense and defense in the MPSF, with an average offensive production of 10.83 goals a game and a 6.78 goals against average. Senior goalkeeper Carlee Kapana ranks just ahead of Eichelberger with 9.64 saves per game, while junior Maddie Musselman leads the offensive charge with 2.50 goals per game.
Catch this top-tier MPSF brawl at 3 p.m. in Avery on Saturday.
Contact James Hemker at jahemker ‘at’ stanford.edu.