No. 3 men’s water polo (10-1, 0-0 MPSF) claimed the SoCal Invite after downing No. 2 UCLA (9-1, 0-0 MPSF) to the tune of 13-9 on Sunday afternoon. The victory marked the completion of a 16-team, three-day tournament hosted by the Bruins.
“Winning this tournament was one of our short-term team goals,” said head coach John Vargas. “It gave us a target to aim at, and it provided us a gauge for measuring our progress.”
Stanford opened the championship match with a 3-1 lead with scores from redshirt junior Ben Hallock, junior Tyler Abramson and senior Bennett Williams. The Bruins countered to make it 3-2 at the end of the first period. By halftime, the lead expanded to 7-3 after a late goal by Hallock.
Despite tacking on three more goals, Stanford’s lead narrowed to 10-8 entering the fourth quarter. Senior Dylan Woodhead and Abramson added three more goals in the frame to keep Stanford in front and hand UCLA its first loss of the season.
“Our focus is on getting better every day,” said Vargas. “This tournament showed us our strengths and weaknesses. We will work hard to fix our weaknesses and continue to improve on our strengths.”
The Cardinal never trailed in Sunday’s affair thanks to senior goalkeeper Andrew Chun, who made nine saves. Chun has 81 saves on the season, the third-most in the MPSF.
Hallock scored a total of 14 goals in four games over the weekend. For his efforts, he was named the MPSF Player of the Week on Monday. Averaging a conference-best 3.7 goals per game, Hallock is one of the best scoring machines in the MPSF, with a conference-high 37 goals through 10 games. Abramson is tied for second with 32 goals.
“We knew the physical demands of this tournament,” said Vargas. “The team embraced the training demands necessary to play at a high level over a three-day period.”
The weekend tournament opened with a relentless air raid against unranked Air Force (7-8, 0-0 WWPA) on Friday. With five goals from Hallock, the Cardinal downed the Falcons 18-1 at Loyola Marymount, one of two locations used for the weekend tournament. Abramson added three goals, one assist and four steals as the Cardinal outshot the Falcons 35-22.
On Saturday, the Cardinal faced steeper competition with a morning clash against No. 8 Long Beach State (10-6, 0-0 GCC). Abramson and sophomore AJ Rossman each netted four goals and added three assists in the 14-13 victory.
That evening, Stanford outlasted No. 4 Pacific (9-1, 0-0 GCC) in a 15-14 semifinals win, behind six goals from Hallock. While these two outings weren’t perfect, it was enough to send the Cardinal into Sunday’s final.
“We won the tournament with everyone playing their role well, not perfect, but well,” said Vargas. “The MVP goes to the team and their approach to every game this weekend.”
Stanford returns to action on Sunday with a rematch at No. 4 Pacific at 1 p.m.
Contact Alejandro Salinas at asalinas ‘at’ stanford.edu.