By Jeremy Rubin
The high-octane offense of Stanford’s No. 1 men’s water polo team (12-1, 0-0 MPSF) easily handled Santa Clara (8-5, 0-0 MPSF) on the road by a final score of 11-4 on Wednesday. The win pushed the Cardinal’s current winning streak to seven and maintained their perfect 5-0 record on the road.
Dating back to 2004, Stanford is undefeated against its Bay Area opponent, with a career head-to-head record of 20-0.
The Cardinal did not look back after taking the lead less than three minutes into the first quarter on an impressive shot from senior driver Dylan Woodhead. Redshirt junior two-meter Ben Hallock extended the lead less than a minute later on a fast break after a masterful save by senior goalkeeper Andrew Chun. Throughout the game, Stanford was able to find quality looks at the goal.
After trimming the deficit to 2-1, Hallock and Woodhead each scored again in rapid succession to pad the lead. Stanford led 4-2 after the first quarter and outscored the Broncos 7-2 through the rest of the contest.
Stanford’s defense had a dispirited start to the match after allowing two goals in the first quarter. “We were a little flat in the first half, missing on a handful of little details at both ends of the pool,” said head coach John Vargas. “Santa Clara came out ready to play and beat us for a couple of early goals.”
The Cardinal kicked their defense up after the first eight minutes. Nine of Chun’s ten saves came in the last three quarters. “Andrew played well in the cage,” Vargas said. The Cardinal came away with eight steals. Junior driver Tyler Abramson and freshman two-meter Andrew Churkian paced the team with three and two steals, respectively.
The Cardinal gave up an average of 11 goals per match over the past four games, so limiting Santa Clara’s offense to just four was a promising sign for the rest of the season.
“Our primary goal coming in was focused defensively,” Vargas said. “Any time you hold a team to four total goals and have two shutout quarters, you know guys are out there making productive plays defensively.”
Woodhead paced the team’s strong offensive with four goals. The Cardinal was consistently able to pound the interior of the defense, as two-meters Hallock and Churkian contributed two goals each. In total, Stanford out-shot Santa Clara by a wide margin, 33-20. The team has not been held to less than double-digit goals all season.
After a quiet second quarter in which freshman driver Larsen Weigle contributed the only goal from either side, Stanford’s offense exploded in the third. Woodhead wasted no time to start the second half, scoring just 20 seconds into the third quarter. Churkian scored the first of his two goals in the quarter with 4:58 minutes left on the clock.
The Cardinal passing game was sharp throughout the match. All 11 of Stanford’s goals were assisted. Abramson led the way with four assists and seven other players each recorded one.
Stanford will now prepare for another away match against No. 8 Long Beach State on Saturday. The Cardinal came away with a narrow 14-13 win in their last match on Sept. 28 at the SoCal Invitational. Long Beach State’s senior and freshman attacker duo of Austin Stewart and Rafael Real Vergara scored nine goals the last time the two teams faced off.
Chun and the team’s newfound defensive prowess will be put to the test in what should be an exciting contest as Stanford looks to extend their winning streak to eight games.
The match will start at 12:00 p.m.
Contact Jeremy Rubin at jjmrubin ‘at’ stanford.edu.