By Stephen Ren
Stanford’s No. 1 women’s water polo team (19-1, 6-0 MPSF) prepares for the conference playoffs this weekend. After wrapping up an absolutely monstrous season, this water polo squad is heavily favorited to take it all the way.
Having earned a bye into the semifinal round, Stanford will play on home turf in the Avery Aquatics Center at 2:30 p.m. PST on Saturday against the winner of No. 4 Berkeley (15-6, 3-3) and No. 20 San Jose State (10-13, 2-4). Should they win that matchup, the Cardinal women will be playing for the championship at 3:00 p.m. PST on Sunday.
The Cardinal offense is led by junior Makenzie Fischer, who has averaged four goals per game this season. For reference, some teams are only able to muster four goals total when playing against Stanford, and the second highest scorer in the MPSF, Cal’s Emma Wright, puts up 2.83 goals per game.
Other leading scorers for the Cardinal include sophomore Aria Fischer, junior Hannah Shabb and senior Kat Klass, all of whom have recorded hat tricks in at least one game this season. When the Cardinal get hot, they have blown out opponents by as many as 21 goals.
Stanford played San Jose State last Saturday, marking the last game of the regular season. In the match, the Cardinal took an early 9-3 lead and never let off the gas pedal, winning the Senior Day game 22-4. Both freshman driver Ryann Neushul and Makenzie Fischer rattled in four goals. Goalkeeper Thea Walsh played all four quarters, made eight saves and limited the Spartans to just one goal in the second half.
If San Jose State makes it past Berkeley in the first round, they will need to put up a much stronger performance than they did last weekend to stand a chance against Stanford.
Cal has proven much more irksome, coming very close to upsetting the Cardinal in their last matchup on April 13th. Stanford ultimately claimed the game with a 13-12 scoreline.
Though the Cardinal have won four straight against Berkeley, the playoffs bring about an entirely different intensity. Seeing as Cal has the second highest scorer in the MPSF in Emma Wright, along with a demonstrably potent offense, Stanford must remain focused and bring their best game should they find themselves facing their cross-bay rival on Saturday.
With home turf advantage, high seeding and as much talent as one can ask for, the Cardinal should be poised to dominate in the post season.
After the MPSF tournament, the Cardinal will compete for the national title in the NCAA Tournament starting Friday, May 10th. Last year, the Cardinal fell 4-5 in the title game against USC and look to avenge the loss this season.
Contact Stephen Ren at rensteph ‘at’ stanford.edu.