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Water polo leads NCAA heading into final weekend of regular season play

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Top-ranked Stanford women’s water polo (17-1, 5-0 MPSF) will close their regular season with two final home games. No. 9 UC Davis (17-10, 3-2 Big West) will come to town for an evening showdown on Friday, and No. 20 San Jose State (10-12, 2-3 MPSF) will be on tap for Saturday’s Senior Day.

The team’s four senior leaders, Madison Beggren, Kat Klass, Cassidey Wiley and Mackenzie Wiley, will be honored in a ceremony before the clash with the Spartans. In their time on the Farm, the team has enjoyed an 83-14 record, a NCAA Championship in 2017 and two NCAA runner-up finishes in 2016 and 2018.

The Cardinal have already faced both the Aggies and the Spartans earlier in the season. San Jose State fell in a 19-4 massacre in the third contest of the year, and UC Davis did not fare much better, losing in a 17-6 rout a couple of weeks later.

Those high-scoring blowout games have faded from recent memory, as Stanford has been on the ropes in the last few games against three water polo juggernauts in the country. After three matches against USC, UCLA and Cal, the Cardinal emerged with three wins that each had a one-point margin of victory.

The team appears to have weathered that regular season storm, and for their efforts they have the chance to go undefeated in conference play for the first time since 2015 with a win over SJSU. The two previous wins featured late comebacks from opponents after the Cardinal amassed large leads, so these matches will serve to make sure they can tighten up their late-game performance.

Statistically, junior Makenzie Fischer continues to outpace every other offensive threat in the conference with her four goals-per-game average. Sitting at 68 goals on the season, Fischer would have the second-most season goals in school history if she can score eight this weekend. Ellen Estes (1997-98, 2001-02) holds the record with 93 goals over a 35-match season in 1998.

Sophomores Aria Fischer and goalie Emalia Eichelberger are both coming off of career performances against the Golden Bears. Eichelberger posted a career-high 12 saves, and Aria Fischer rattled the cage five times, once more than her previous best.

Catch both games at Avery Aquatics Center. The matchup with UC Davis will begin at 6:00 p.m. on Friday, and the Senior Day ceremonies will take place before the SJSU game, which is slated to begin at 1:00 p.m on Saturday.

Contact James Hemker at jahemker ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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James Hemker '21 is a Managing Editor of Sports. A computer science major, he has made the cross-country journey to the Farm from Baltimore, MD. After being tortured for years by the Redskins, Browns, and Orioles, the wide successes of the Cardinal have shown him that the teams you root for can in fact win championships. Contact James at jahemker 'at' stanford.edu.
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