By Cybele Zhang
The No. 4 Cardinal (0-0, 0-0 MSPF) are set to kick off their season this Saturday with the Pacific Invite at No. 7 Pacific in Stockton. Stanford will face No. 12 San José State at 1 p.m. PT followed by the home team at 4 p.m. PT.
The double header will certainly test the Cardinal’s depth and endurance, especially given that the team is yet to compete together this season. The Spartans (0-0, 0-0 GCC) and Tigers (0-0, 0-0 GCC) will also play each other at 10 a.m. PT on the same day.
With the chance to secure two wins over ranked opponents, Stanford has an opportunity to make a strong statement early and perhaps even move up in the rankings.
Unlike last season, the Cardinal team will begin the year conventionally. The Stanford men will have non-conference tournaments to ease into the season and expect to play a full schedule before tournament play begins in a few months.
The 2020 men’s water polo season was postponed until the winter, so it has been merely five and a half months since the Cardinal team last competed in the pool. The uncharacteristic season earlier this year was certainly full of ups and downs.
Stanford started 2021 with a 1-3 record, but the Cardinal soon turned things around and put together a five-game win streak on their way to becoming the first school in MPSF history to capture three straight conference titles. Stanford secured the No. 1 seed in the NCAA Championships but was ultimately unable to defend its 2019 title. The Cardinal fell 11-10 to UCLA in the semifinals.
Thankfully for Stanford, driver Tyler Abramson is returning to Stanford as a graduate student for his final year of eligibility — due to COVID-19, all NCAA athletes were awarded an additional year, regardless of whether they opted to compete or sit out during the 2020-21 competition year. Abramson led the Cardinal in goals last season (21), shots (53) and points (26). He was also the only Stanford player to secure MPSF Player of the Week honors.
This weekend, the Cardinal will also look to returning players, junior 2M Beck Jurasius and senior 2MD AJ Rossman. Both scored 16 goals last season despite the abbreviated schedule.
One notable departure, however, is goalie Andrew Chun ’20. The La Jolla native saw playing time since his freshman year in 2016 and was especially impactful in last season’s MPSF Tournament, where he was named MVP.
Abramson and senior driver Quinn Woodhead were also named to the MPSF/KAP7 All-Tournament Team last spring.
John Vargas is entering his twentieth season as head coach and will be looking to secure his fourth consecutive MPSF title and third NCAA titles (2002, 2019).