W. Water Polo: After surprising upset, NCAAs on tap

May 12, 2011, 1:50 a.m.

The top-ranked Stanford women’s water polo team travels to the National Collegiate Championship in Ann Arbor this weekend with a couple of lofty goals: a successful tournament would give the Cardinal its first national championship since 2002 and earn a 101st team title for Stanford athletics as a whole.

After Stanford earned a third-place finish with a 2-1 record in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) tournament, the Cardinal (25-1) heads into the NCAA Tournament via an at-large bid. Even after the third-place finish, the squad will have the number-one seed in the eight-team tournament.

W. Water Polo: After surprising upset, NCAAs on tap
Sophomore Jillian Garton (above) and the Stanford women's water polo team will test the waters against an NCAA tournament field that includes three MPSF foes. (IAN GARCIA-DOTY/The Stanford Daily)

Three of Stanford’s MPSF rivals will be traveling to the NCAA Tournament as well: Cal, USC and UCLA all got the call to Ann Arbor. The other four teams are automatic qualifiers that won their respective conferences: UC-Irvine from the Big West Conference, Indiana from the Collegiate Water Polo Association, UC-San Diego from the Western Water Polo Association and Iona College from the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.

Other than the one blemish at the MPSF Tournament, Stanford has demonstrated its prowess in tournaments, with undefeated records at the Michigan Kickoff, Stanford Invitational and UC-Irvine Invitational.

“We’ve been a good tournament team because we play a lot of people and keep attacking teams,” said Stanford head coach John Tanner. “This weekend we will continue to use our bench and push for goals in all phases of offense.”

The one tournament blemish came in a game against UCLA that Stanford lost 9-8, ending the Cardinal’s 24-game winning streak.

“We had several lapses against UCLA, particularly in the middle of the game, where we went significant periods without generating big stops or finishing quality chances,” Tanner said.

Stanford will continue to lean on its depth and offensive talent in the NCAA Tournament–the Cardinal has played at least thirteen players in each game this season and boasts five players that have tallied over 30 goals this season.

Two-meter players sophomore Annika Dries and junior Melissa Seidemann have led the Cardinal offensively. Dries, who was named MPSF Player of the Year, leads the team with 58 goals and Seidemann is second with 44. On the perimeter, junior driver Alyssa Lo is third on the team with 38 goals.

In the cage, Stanford has benefited from the combined play of senior goalie Amber Oland and sophomore goalie Kate Baldoni. As a team, the Cardinal is first in the MPSF, letting up just 4.73 goals per game.

That goals-against average is particularly impressive as the tournament looms, especially considering that the tournament’s top four seeds are all familiar foes from Stanford’s conference.

Tanner said that, for the most part, the squad will know exactly what to expect, as it has faced each team in the NCAA Tournament besides UC-San Diego and Iona.

“At this point in the season there aren’t any significant secrets in terms of players or teams among the four MPSF schools,” Tanner said. “We don’t know much about Iona, but they will have their hands full with us.”

Stanford will face Iona College at 3:00 p.m. in Ann Arbor on Friday, May 13. They will face either USC or UC-Irvine on Saturday, May 14.


Login or create an account