The Stanford men’s water polo team is in the final stretch of what has, to this point, been a very successful regular season. The Cardinal (13-6, 5-2 MPSF) is currently in a tie for third place in the highly competitive Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF). After a nail-biting loss to No. 6 Pacific on Sunday afternoon at Avery Aquatic Center, Stanford’s national ranking of No. 3 is liable to slip just a little bit.
This season has seen a fair share of ups and downs for the veteran Stanford squad, and the team’s maturity has definitely contributed to the cohesive level of success it has achieved in this topsy-turvy season.
The beginning of the school year brought two tournaments—the NorCal and SoCal Invitationals—which annually kick-start the water polo season into gear. Stanford struggled at both of these tournaments, uncharacteristic given its normally strong tournament play. The Cardinal finished fourth at the NorCal and sixth at the SoCal. Both tournaments ended with losses to rival California.
Just after the Cardinal’s second loss to Cal at the SoCal Invitational on Oct. 3, Stanford achieved its biggest win of the season, at home against USC. The Trojans entered as the No. 1 team in the land and were in the midst of two winning streaks—18 straight victories overall and 17 in a row against Stanford. Meanwhile, the Cardinal was reeling after its tough outings at the invitationals, but was at home for the first time all season.
Stanford redshirt junior goalie Brian Pingree had a coming-out party in that game, and Stanford ended up winning, 5-3, dethroning USC and buoying itself back into the top five in the national rankings. For his efforts, Pingree was named the MPSF player of the week.
At that point in the season, the Cardinal was 6-4, with its year marked by inconsistency. Since the win over USC, the Cardinal has gone 7-2, playing cohesively and in a clutch manner, with several impressive victories over tough foes. The USC game was definitively the hinge upon which the Stanford men’s water polo season has pivoted—from mediocre to excellent.
Stanford will start its postseason after Thanksgiving, at the MPSF Tournament. If Stanford defeats Cal on Nov. 19 in Berkeley, which came after this newspaper went to press, it could position itself well for a high seed. The tournament will take place on Nov. 26-28 at Stanford’s Avery Aquatic Center.