Last minute goal helps No. 2 Card defeat rival No. 3 Bears
The No. 2 Stanford (21-1, 6-0 MPSF) and No. 3 Cal (23-6, 4-3) women’s water polo teams faced off at the Avery Aquatic Center this Saturday for a thrilling match, decided at the literal last second, with the game-winning score from Stanford’s senior two-meter Jessica Steffens.
The Big Splash stayed close from the opening seconds through the final goal – at the close of both the second and third periods, the score remained even at fives and sevens, respectively. After a quick timeout call in the final seconds by head coach John Tanner, senior driver Kelsey Holshouser passed to Steffens, who broke the 7-7 tie by punching a score past Cal goalie Stephanie Peckham with one second left on the clock.
Points were scored from across the Card roster, making the overall win a true team victory.
Junior driver Kim Krueger smashed in two goals, while freshman two-meter Annika Dries, sophomore two-meter Melissa Seidemann, Holshouser, senior two-meter Alex Koran, Steffens and senior driver Kelly Eaton each scored a single point to bring the final score to 8-7. Junior Amber Oland had a total of seven saves through the game as well.
With the win, the Cardinal gained its ninth straight win and will now face off with No. 1 USC on Saturday.
“This Cal game prepared us for our game next weekend, since it might come down to a close game,” Eaton said. “Before our Cal game, we knew that we were bound to have a game that came down to the wire, since we hadn’t had one all year yet. Sure enough, this happened. I’m glad that we were able to experience a tight game before we play in the end of the year tournament.”
Stanford’s return home was a welcome change after a road trip to Hawaii. Home or away, however, Stanford is keeping its focus on a title.
“It is always fun to play at your own pool, but I think we would have had the same outcome whether we were here or there,” Eaton said. “I’m sure in both cases, there would have been a large, loud crowd, and that pumps us up no matter what. A championship team knows how to win at home and on the road.”
The Cardinal is still undefeated in MPSF play, while the MPSF Championship begins on April 30. Two weeks after MPSFs, the NCAA Tournament will begin, making the next month extremely important for the Cardinal.
More immediately, Stanford must prepare for the top team in the nation, USC, who swept UCLA this weekend in a 14-5 victory. The Trojan women, now on a 17-match winning streak, have not lost a match since the beginning of February against the Cardinal.
Coming off a victory against longtime rival Cal, the Card is hoping to ride its momentum into Saturday’s match, which will also be Senior Night.
“I am excited to have my Senior Night versus our biggest rival because it is guaranteed to be a good game,” Eaton said. “Hopefully a lot of people are able to attend.”
The match will take place this Saturday at 4 p.m. at the Avery Aquatic Center.