No. 1 men’s water polo secured its second-consecutive and seventh-overall MPSF conference title over the weekend. Entering the tournament as the second seed, Stanford won its semifinals match against No. 3 seed UCLA in overtime on Saturday. Then, the Cardinal headed to the finals on Sunday and defeated fourth-seeded Cal for the MPSF title.
After a six-goal victory against the Bruins last week, the Cardinal came in confident against UCLA on Saturday. However, the tournament game was much more evenly matched. Junior driver Tyler Abramson found the back of the net twice in the first quarter, which ended with a 5-4 lead for the Bruins.
The second quarter was low-scoring, but the Cardinal fell further behind, as UCLA came out with two quick goals. The Woodhead brothers — senior Dyland and sophomore Quinn — scored one each for the Cardinal, but UCLA rattled the cage once more to give the Bruins an 8-6 lead going into halftime.
Stanford came back after the break with fire, getting back into the game as senior driver Bennett Willimas and freshman driver Larsen Weigle each tallied two goals. The third ended with a 12-10 lead for Stanford, but the Cardinal could not hold on to the lead to close out the game. Williams completed his hat trick in the final regulation quarter, but the Bruins knotted the score at 14-14.
In the first overtime period, Abramson and Williams came up big for the Cardinal, both finding the back of the net and leaving the score 16-14. The Bruins scored once in the second period, but it was not enough to come back; Stanford claimed the ticket to Sunday’s championship game.
Against the Bruins, senior goalkeeper Andrew Chun put up 16 saves, which was only two short of his career best. Williams scored a game-high four goals and had five assists. Abramson contributed three, while junior center Ben Hallock, Dylan Woodhead, Quinn Woodhead and Weigle all added two more.
Earlier that day, fourth-seeded Cal upset No. 1 seed USC 12-9 in the other semifinal match. Thus, Stanford faced Cal in its home pool for the championship. A few weeks prior, the Cardinal had defeated the Bears 15-8 in the Big Splash.
The Cardinal arrived on Sunday to a packed, 1,000-person crowd in Cal’s favor. Despite the cheers against them, Stanford came out strong in the first quarter and built on its lead throughout the game.
The beginning of the first quarter saw a back-and-forth, as both Woodhead brothers and Abramson scored one each, and Cal netted three early goals as well. At the end of the period, though, sophomore A.J. Rossman and Hallock found the back of the net three more times.
In the second, Stanford extended its lead with four goals in the first three minutes of play. Cal countered with one more and a five-meter, ending the half with a score of 10-6.
The third quarter opened with three unanswered goals by the Cardinal. Quinn Woodhead and Abramson completed a hat trick, and freshman center Beck Jurasius found the back of the net. The Bears then answered with two more goals off of power plays and another five-meter penalty shot at the end of the quarter.
Holding on to a 13-9 lead, the Cardinal finished the tournament with a strong final quarter, including two five-meters in their favor. Stanford extended the lead to a final score of 17-11, taking home the MPSF trophy for the second consecutive year.
Abramson had another game-high with four goals. Quinn Woodhead followed closely behind with three, and Rossman, Hallock, Williams and Dylan Woodhead each found the net twice.
Coming off of great momentum from this weekend, the Cardinal are set up for success in the upcoming NCAA tournament. Entering as the No. 1 seed, Stanford will be resting until Dec. 7. A play-in game between Harvard and Bucknell will determine who plays USC. The winner of that match will then face the Cardinal in the semifinals.
Contact Natalie Hilderbrand at nhild ‘at’ stanford.edu.