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Top-ranked water polo suffers narrow loss to No.7 USC

Stanford once again unable to get over USC hump, loses in 2018 championship rematch

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No. 1 wen’s water polo (15-2, 0-1 MPSF) had a close game this Saturday in Los Angeles, resulting in a tough 8-9 loss against No. 7 USC (10-4, 1-0 MPSF) at the Trojans’ senior day. The game broke Stanford’s 10-game winning streak. Entering the game, Stanford’s only loss of the season had been against No. 2 UC Santa Barbara in September.

The Cardinal came into the game looking for revenge after a heartbreaking loss to the Trojans in the NCAA championship game last winter. However in similar fashion to last winter’s game, Stanford came out a few goals behind and almost pulled off a great comeback in the fourth quarter but couldn’t quite complete the win.

Stanford outshot USC 39-26, but the Trojan defense prevailed, led by goalie Nic Porter who put up an outstanding 20 saves. USC held Stanford to a season-low in goals scored. 

At the onset of the first quarter, USC’s Marin Dasic scored a quick goal in the first 35 seconds of play off of a power play, bringing the Trojans ahead temporarily. Less than a minute later, junior driver Tyler Abramson found the back of the net, tying up the score. The Cardinal pulled ahead briefly after an exclusion led to a goal on a 6-on-5 by sophomore driver Quinn Woodhead.

Stanford held the lead for two more minutes before the Trojans ended the first quarter with two unanswered goals, both by Marcus Longton. The quarter ended with a one-goal lead for the Trojans.

Senior driver Bennett Williams won the sprint to open the second quarter, giving Stanford the first possession. After a missed shot, the Trojans took control with a successful power play conversion, leading to a goal by Dasic, extending their lead to 2-4.

The teams traded shots for a few possessions until USC’s Jacob Mercep found the net, leaving three minutes in the first half.

The momentum then shifted for the rest of the second quarter. Williams put Stanford on the scoreboard for first time in the second quarter with a goal on a power play. At the end of the quarter, redshirt junior Ben Hallock added one more for the Cardinal, ending the half in the Trojans’ favor 4-5.

At the beginning of the third quarter, the teams traded possessions for two minutes before USC earned a five-meter penalty. USC’s Mercep took the shot but missed. Play resumed until Williams found the net, tying the score at five.

USC responded with three unanswered goals. Chris Sturtevant scored twice in a row, followed by another goal by Jake Ehrhardt, ending the quarter at 5-8, USC.

Determined not to repeat last year’s NCAA loss, the Cardinal offense came into the fourth quarter driven to come back. The quarter started with a penalty on Mercep, leading to a successful 5-meter penalty show by Abramson. Later that quarter, Abramson found the back of the net again, bringing the score to 7-8 USC.

USC then scored their first goal of the quarter, leaving two minutes on the clock with a score of 7-9. With one minute left, Stanford earned an exclusion, leading to a power play, but failed to score. In the final six seconds of play, Stanford earned another power play, and Abramson scored with three seconds left, leaving a final score of 8-9.

Abramson led the Cardinal in scoring, putting up an outstanding four goals, followed by Williams with two goals.

Stanford’s next matchup is the Big Splash next weekend against No. 8 Cal (11-8, 0-1 MPSF). The game is at Avery Aquatic Center on Nov. 9 at 10:30 a.m.

Contact Natalie Hilderbrand at nhilderbrand ‘at’ stanford.edu.