Top-ranked Stanford sent its opponents packing at the 2011 Stanford Invitational last weekend, earning four victories over Arizona, Cal, San Jose State and USC. The team successfully defended its 2010 title, which, at the time, marked the first Stanford Invitational it won in seven years.
This year’s invitational featured eight of the best teams in the country, separated into two groups. Bracket A consisted of No. 2 USC, No. 4 UCLA, No. 5 Hawaii and No. 15 Indiana. Bracket B included No. 1 Stanford, No. 3 Cal, No. 8 Arizona State and No. 9 San Jose State.
The Cardinal (8-0) swept its four games with a diversified attack, defeating USC in a rematch of last year’s national championship game. The final score looked familiar, but this time with the Cardinal on top, 10-9, in a sudden-death thriller that went to triple overtime.
The team began the tournament against Arizona State on Saturday morning. Led by sophomore two-meter Annika Dries, who scored half of the team’s goals, Stanford cruised to a 10-1 victory with all goals coming from non-seniors, including freshman driver Kaley Dodson, sophomore driver Victoria Kennedy and junior driver Pallavi Menon. Sophomore driver Vee Dunlevie added two goals.
Later on Saturday, Stanford doubled up rival Cal, 10-5. Junior driver Alyssa Lo led the team with four goals, and senior goalkeeper Amber Oland had 12 saves. Dries continued her excellent play with a hat-trick against the Golden Bears. She was later named Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Player of the Week for her excellent tournament.
Stanford concluded its bracket play the following morning with a dominant 16-4 victory over its South Bay rival, San Jose State. Stanford had another balanced attack featuring goals from 10 different players.
“A key to our strong start has no doubt been our depth,” said head coach John Tanner. “We have great depth at every position.”
At 4:30 p.m. on Super Bowl Sunday, Stanford got in the pool for a much-anticipated matchup with No. 2 USC. A sizeable crowd was present for the back-and-forth affair, with both teams gaining momentum in separate stretches. The game was tied after the first quarter at 2-2, after the second quarter at 3-3 and at the end of regulation at 7-7.
After USC senior Kristen Dronberger notched her fourth goal on a backhand shot that tied the score at seven apiece with 1:17 to play, drama unfolded at Avery in the final minute of regulation. A Stanford turnover with 10 seconds to go followed by an exclusion seconds later gave USC one last shot for a goal. However, USC’s last-second prayer sailed far wide of the cage, and USC head coach Jovan Vavic was visibly upset about what he thought was a clock malfunction that forced the wild shot.
In overtime, Menon had a beautiful, arcing bar-in goal with three seconds left in the first overtime period, which put Stanford in front, 9-8.
The Cardinal seemed to have the game in check in the second overtime period with a 9-8 lead, but a turnover and exclusion with under 30 seconds left enabled USC freshmen two-meter Madeline Rosenthal to tie the score with a goal inside with 13 seconds left.
In sudden death, the teams were scoreless in the first frame, which included several huge saves by both goalies and a bar-out 5-meter penalty by Menon. The nail-biter ended with a skip shot by Dodson with 16 seconds left in the second sudden-death period.
“The emotional victory really showed the team’s resilience,” Tanner said. “We missed opportunities to go by three goals multiple times. However, whenever we had a setback, we rebounded quickly. Also, it didn’t help that the USC goalie had a great game.”
USC’s freshman goalie Flora Bolonyai had 10 saves, including a breakaway save mid-way through the second quarter and an athletic stop in the second overtime period that kept USC within striking distance. She was named MPSF Newcomer of the Week after her impressive outing during the weekend.
Stanford sported another diverse offensive outing with goals coming from seven different players. Dodson, Dries and junior two-meter Melissa Seidemann led the team with a pair each.
Once the season heats up, Stanford plans to see Cal, UCLA and USC again, whether in the scheduled MPSF season or the playoffs.
“We need to be more methodical. Against these teams, we need to find and finish opportunities,” Tanner said. “Overall, we were not decisive enough this weekend, and we need to be crisper on offense.”
The Card is out of action for two weeks, but is scheduled to travel up to Stockton, Calif. to face Pacific on Feb. 20.