M. WaterPolo: Cal knocks off Cardinal in Big Splash

Oct. 22, 2012, 12:31 a.m.

The floodgates opened during the second quarter of this year’s annual Big Splash against California, and by the end of the game Stanford was drowning in goals. A 4-0 second quarter that turned into an 8-2 run for California led to a lopsided 14-8 drubbing on Saturday morning at Berkeley’s Spieker Aquatics Complex.

The following day, No. 4 Stanford (8-4, 2-2 MPSF) made a trip to Santa Clara where they took out their frustrations against No.17 Bucknell and No.13 Air Force at the Rodeo Tournament. The Cardinal won those games 14-2 and 14-3, respectively.

In the Big Splash, Stanford’s defense was not stopping much of anything, but especially not if it was a shot coming from Cal driver Collin Smith. The junior, who entered the game as the conference’s fourth-leading scorer, finished with six goals.

Smith also scored four goals in the teams’ earlier meeting, which had been the most allowed by Stanford to any player in a game this season.

The Cardinal offense could not keep up with the steady onslaught of goals despite sophomore utility Alex Bowen’s best efforts. Bowen almost matched Smith with four goals of his own on the day for an offense that generally looked anxious and out of rhythm.

UC-Berkeley’s (10-6, 1-2 MPSF) perimeter defenders blocked outside shots all game, and goalie Jon Sibley made saves even when Stanford had clear scoring chances. Stanford was unable to block shots from outside or inside, with junior goalie Scott Platshon recording three saves to Sibley’s eight.

The loss was Stanford’s third straight in the Big Splash and the second blowout in as many years. This was also California’s first Mountain Pacific Sports Federation win of the season–their losses came against USC and UCLA, both of which are undefeated in conference play.

Unlike Stanford’s 9-8 win over Cal in their matchup earlier this year, the Cardinal could not create momentum with its defense. In the first meeting, Cal was held to one goal in the opening quarter and two in the second. This time around, the Golden Bears notched at least three in every quarter.

Stanford built a fleeting 3-1 lead behind Bowen’s shooting and quality set play from sophomore utility Nick Hoversten and sophomore 2-meter Connor Cleary. They even led 4-3 after the first quarter, but by the time the halftime whistle was blown they were in a three-goal hole at 7-4.

Any semblance of a comeback or momentum change in the second half was short-lived, as the Cardinal gave up more goals than it has in any game this season.

On Sunday, freshman driver Brett Bonanni treated Bucknell and Air Force like his personal punching bags, scoring 14 goals on the day. After a two-goal performance against Cal, Bonanni put up five against Bucknell and then two against Air Force. Senior driver Travis Noll was the only other player to score more than two goals during Sunday’s double-header, finishing with three.

These games against nonconference opponents usually serve as tune-ups for Stanford, which has won all of its games against teams outside of the MPSF by at least seven goals this season.

Stanford will drop to fourth place in the MPSF but remains a half-game ahead of Cal in the standings.

M. WaterPolo: Cal knocks off Cardinal in Big Splash
Stanford lost the Big Splash to California, but rebounded on Sunday to defeat Bucknell and Air Force in the Rodeo Invitational (LARRY GE/The Stanford Daily).

The Cardinal is back home next weekend for a game on Saturday against UC-Irvine and one on Sunday against Long Beach State–the two teams with the worst conference records in the MPSF. Both games will be start at noon.

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