By Jeremy Rubin
New week, new ranked opponents, same results.
For the second straight week, No. 2 women’s water polo (7-0, 0-0 MPSF) faced off against three top-15 teams, and for the second straight week, Stanford finished the weekend with a perfect 3-0 record.
This time competing in the Stanford Invitational hosted at Avery Aquatic Center, Stanford defeated No. 11 UC Davis (4-3, 0-0 MPSF) 12-4 in an exhibition match and No. 7 Michigan (5-6, 0-0 CWPA) 13-10 on Saturday. On Sunday, the Cardinal downed No. 6 Cal (6-4, 0-1 MPSF), 10-6.
The rivalry match against Cal can be best described as a game of thirds. Stanford stormed out of the gate, scoring four goals in the first five minutes of play to take a 4-1 lead. The team appeared poised and crisp on both ends of the pool.
“We were looking to get the first goal and put pressure on them,” junior driver Sarah Klass said. Klass filled up the stat sheet, finishing with four goals, one assist, and two steals.
Two quick goals from Golden Bears junior attacker Brigit Mulder coupled with multiple empty Stanford possessions, however, shrunk the deficit to 4-3 at the end of the first.
Stanford scored first in the second quarter off a goal from Klass at the 6:35 mark, but the offense continued to stall as Cal clawed their way back, tying up the game 5-5 at the end of the half.
“We went through that stretch in the second quarter where we got really two-dimensional. We weren’t aware on offense or defense, and that got [Cal] going and gaining some rhythm,” head coach John Tanner said.
Stanford made the necessary adjustments on both ends following the break, blitzing the Golden Bears and taking a commanding 9-6 lead entering the fourth quarter. The Cardinal then shut out Cal in the final quarter to seal the 10-6 victory.
“In the second half we got back into our team attack and team defense,” Tanner said.
This team play on both sides of the pool was a point of emphasis for Stanford coming into the game. Six of the Cardinal’s 10 goals were assisted, led by a game-high two from freshman two-meter defender Sophie Wallace. Klass, senior two-meter defender Kayla Constandse, sophomore driver Madison Stamen and freshman driver Floranne Carroll chipped in one apiece.
“We’ve been working a lot on setting each other up and making that extra pass,” Klass said. “Everyone was locked in and we were super happy with that.”
Heading into a two-week break before the team’s next games, Stanford still has room for improvement on both ends despite the undefeated start.
“In one-on-one defense, we’re getting beat both from the perimeter and from the inside. We just need to get ourselves in better positions earlier so that we can anticipate our next positions,” Tanner said.
Against Cal, after allowing three early goals to Mulder, the team made the necessary adjustments and held her scoreless the rest of the game before she picked up her third foul at the 7:35 mark in the fourth quarter, excluding her from the rest of the game.
“This was a big deal because it took away a lot of their perimeter shooting and then we could collapse back on their inside players,” Tanner said. The result of the team’s efforts, a scoreless final frame, speaks for itself.
Stanford will next compete against at the Aggie Classic on Feb. 15 at UC Davis, taking on No. 18 Pacific and No. 12 Fresno State. Until then, the Cardinal will rest up and continue to progress on offense and defense. Having already downed seven top-20 opponents, including three in the top 10, Stanford has proved itself to be a force to be reckoned with moving forward.
“[The season has] been really fun. There are a lot of good teams and I’m pleased with how we’re competing,” Tanner said.