By Jeremy Rubin
In its final non-conference matchup of the season, Stanford’s No. 1 men’s water polo team (14-1, 0-0 MPSF) will face off against No. 6 Pepperdine University (17-5, 1-0 GCC) Sunday at the Avery Aquatic Center.
Fresh off a two-week break, the Cardinal look to keep their momentum and nine-game winning streak alive. Most recently, the team took on No. 12 UC Irvine (6-9, 0-2 GCC) in a road matchup on Oct. 13. After Irvine tied up the score at 1-1 with about five minutes remaining in the first quarter, Stanford left the Anteaters in the dust, going on a 10-1 run and blowing the game open. Irvine never recovered and the Cardinal won 16-7, led by redshirt junior Ben Hallock’s three goals and senior goalkeeper Andrew Chun’s 11 saves.
After starting off with four consecutive matches of 20 goals or more, Stanford has consistently been in the double digits all season. Buoyed by Hallock, senior driver Bennett Williams and junior driver Tyler Abramson, the offensive has been a clear strength for the team.
This will be the first home match for Stanford in more than a month. Their last game at the Avery Aquatic Center resulted in its only loss of the season, a 15-10 defeat at the hands of No. 5 UC Santa Barbara (15-5, 0-1 GCC). Stanford found itself in an early 6-1 hole and was unable to clamp down defensively, allowing six goals in the final quarter.
Since the Santa Barbara game, though, the defense has been a dominant force in its own right, complementing the impressive offense. The Cardinal, led by the standout play of Chun, have allowed under eight goals per game during this most recent nine game stretch.
Pepperdine will keep Stanford’s hands full at both ends of the pool. The Waves are riding high on a seven-game winning streak of their own. Their most recent victory, a hard-fought 13-12 match against defending NCAA-champion USC, proved that the team cannot be taken lightly. The team’s lineup also features a diverse array of offensive weapons, with six players scoring at least one goal against No. 3 USC (9-4, 0-0 MPSF).
The Waves will take on No. 3 Pacific on Saturday, so watch for the well-rested Cardinal to try to take advantage of this on Sunday by coming out of the gate strong. With conference play against three powerhouses, No. 6 USC, No. 8 California and No. 2 UCLA, looming on the horizon, Stanford will hope to keep tits offense firing on all cylinders and the momentum rolling.
The match is set to begin on Sunday at 12:00 p.m. at the Avery Aquatic Center.
Contact Jeremy Rubin at jjmrubin ‘at’ stanford.edu.