By James Hemker
When freshmen and sophomores outnumber upperclassmen 2-to-1, senior leadership is the element that cements a group of wildly talented but relatively inexperienced athletes together at the most crucial moments.
Fielding such a roster, No. 2 women’s water polo (15-1, 1-0 MPSF) relied on the veterans to pull the team from the jaws of an upset. With 90 seconds left on the clock, senior Hannah Shabb found a window through three sets of Arizona State arms to score her fifth goal of the afternoon and lift the Cardinal in a 9-8 thriller.
The No. 8 Sun Devils (12-5, 1-1 MPSF) came to Avery Aquatic Center and almost spoiled Stanford’s MPSF conference opener with a 5-1 run and another 3-1 run late in the game.
The Cardinal opened strong, with junior Sarah Klass finding Shabb for the first score of the game just two minutes in. Midway through the period, freshman Hannah Constandse rattled the cage. Following a Sun Devil exclusion, Klass made good on the power play to put Stanford up 3-0 at the end of the first frame. Both teams failed to convert a five-meter penalty shot in the second half of the quarter.
More than 10 minutes of game time would pass before the Cardinal would slip one into ASU’s net. At the halfway point of the second quarter, Arizona State called a timeout to regroup. The Sun Devils finally found a chink in Stanford’s armor at the end of the half, putting two past redshirt senior keeper Emalia Eichlerberger.
Out of the break, Stanford was called for an exclusion, and the Sun Devils converted their power play. The five-on-six defense was stellar from both teams, as each allowed just one power-play goal out of 13 total opportunities. The goal knotted the score, but Shabb bumped the lead back to 1 on the next possession.
A flurry of goals came with less than four minutes remaining in the third. Two from each side meant that Stanford entered the final quarter with a 6-5 lead.
ASU’s Amira Van Buren earned a hat trick with a score at the 5:42 mark. Shabb responded with her fourth strike, but then the Cardinal stalled. The Sun Devils put 2 more points on the board to take the lead with just under three minutes remaining.
Immediately, Stanford called a timeout to regroup. The strategy session was successful, and Constandse scored 30 seconds later. Another timeout was burned at 1:51, and the result was Shabb’s game-winning fifth goal. The performance tied her career best, and bumps her up to second-most goals scored among Cardinal this season with 26. That figure is also a career high for her.
Stanford will be back in action on March 22 when the Cardinal travel to Indiana for their second conference matchup.
Contact James Hemker at jahemker ‘at’ stanford.edu.