Last weekend’s UCI Invitational culminated with another matchup between the two giants of women’s collegiate water polo, Stanford and USC. For the second time this season, No. 1 played No. 2 for a tournament crown, and for the second straight time, Stanford came out on top against the defending national champions.
The top-ranked Cardinal (13-0) made it a bit less dramatic against the Trojans this time, winning 9-6—par for the course after a pair of 10-9 heart-pounders between the conference rivals during this year’s Stanford Invitational and 2010 National Championship game.
The two-day, 16-team UCI Invitational featured some of the best water polo teams in the country, including the top seven ranked squads. Stanford began the tournament on Saturday, Feb. 26 against CSU Bakersfield and No. 9 Arizona State. The Cardinal cruised to two victories, winning 19-3 and 15-7, respectively.
The Card got offensive contributions from a variety of players. Junior driver Alyssa Lo and junior two-meter Melissa Seidemann both netted five goals in the first two games. Freshman driver Kaley Dodson continued her fantastic rookie campaign by tallying four goals, and senior driver Kim Krueger had a hat trick against the Sun Devils.
In addition to the diversified offensive attack, Stanford played excellent defense. All three goalies—sophomore Kate Baldoni and seniors Kim Hall and Amber Oland—saw playing time on the first day of the invitational. The three combined for 22 saves in the two matches.
“We have gotten good contributions from players in each position and class, which makes us a good tournament team,” said head coach John Tanner.
Stanford’s depth proved crucial on the second day of action as the Card defeated No. 5 Hawaii, 10-5. The Cardinal had an uncharacteristic start, falling behind, 0-2, after the opening frame. However, the team pulled away, outscoring the Warriors 8-1 over the next two periods.
“Against Hawaii, we got good bench play after we started slow,” Tanner said. “Everyone was composed and resourceful, and we turned a 2-0 deficit into an 8-2 lead.”
The Cardinal was led offensively by Krueger, who had four goals. Lo and Seidemann also chipped in with a pair a piece in the semifinal match. The high-powered offense was complimented by phenomenal goalie play, as Baldoni recorded eight saves.
The championship game was a much-anticipated rematch between Stanford and USC. The two teams played a triple-overtime marathon last time out in the championship game of the Stanford Invitational. This time, it was goalie Amber Oland who stole the show, as the senior amassed 14 saves against the Trojans. On the offensive end, junior two-meter Annika Dries, who had yet to score in the first three games of the tournament, led all scorers with four goals.
“Against USC, we moved the ball around better, but we’re still stiff, mechanical in all parts of our offense,” Tanner said. “However, we scored on a couple six-on-five [plays], after getting nothing from our power plays last time. Much of that six-and-five success came down to shooting better.”
With the solid weekend, Stanford extended its current winning streak to 13 games and captured its second UCI Invitational title in three years. The Cardinal will open up its Mountain Pacific Sports Federation schedule at No. 7 San Diego State on Saturday and then at No. 12 Long Beach State the following day. The next home game for the Card is scheduled for March 26 versus UCLA.