On Friday, the No. 1 Stanford women’s water polo team will open the first round of the National Collegiate Championship against No. 8 Pomona-Pitzer at San Diego State’s Aztec Aquaplex in San Diego, Calif. Though it enters the contest as the top seed, the Cardinal (24-2, 7-0 Pac-10) has two losses on its record this year against teams in the tournament, although Stanford has beaten both on other occasions.
Stanford entered the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) Tournament as the top seed two weeks ago but settled for third place, losing in the semifinals.
Despite opening the tournament with a 10-5 quarterfinal victory over No. 8 seed Arizona State on April 30, the women were upset 7-6 by UCLA, the eventual champion.
Stanford was able to salvage two honors though, beating California in the bronze medal game and having senior two-meter Jessica Steffens selected to the All-Tournament Team.
Like her senior teammates, Steffens will undoubtedly feel the pressure to bring a national title back to the Farm for the first time since 2002. However, history indicates that the ladies will likely have a great chance for a second championship.
Since the inception of the tournament in 2001, Stanford is the only team to have reached the tournament every year and has never finished lower than third. That said, tradition also seems to dictate that the ladies finish in that same spot—each of the last three years, Stanford has finished third in the NCC.
For Steffens, Kelly Eaton, Alex Holshouser and Alex Koran, this is their last opportunity to break that trend. This group of seniors will bring their 46 percent of the team’s goal scoring to bear when the ladies take on Pomona-Pitzer. The Cardinal will also depend on its leading individual goal scorer, sophomore two-meter Melissa Seidemann, and consistent goaltending from junior Amber Oland and freshman Kate Baldoni. The team will also look to Steffens, its top MPSF performer and United States Olympian, to spearhead its defensive efforts.
Stanford will feel very much at home at this tournament, as it has already met five of the tournament’s eight teams. Stanford has beaten those five teams this season, including USC and UCLA, and will look to take the lead in their season series with those squads en route to the title.
First up is Pomona-Pitzer, which is playing in its second National Collegiate Championship in the last three years. The Sagehens won the SCIAC Tournament with a 12-11 overtime title-game win over Occidental. The top players for Pomona-Pitzer are SCIAC Athlete of the Year Tamara Perea, and First-Team All-SCIAC selections Karen Bonner, Sarah Tuggy and Sarah Woods.
Stanford will begin play in the National Collegiate Championship today at 4 p.m. in San Diego, Calif. Live results will be available on the NCAA’s website.