The No. 2 Stanford women’s water polo team avenged its only loss of the season by defeating No. 1 USC 6-4 on Saturday in Los Angeles. With the win, the Cardinal (24-1, 5-0 MPSF) clinched the top seed at the MPSF Championships, which will take place from April 26-28 in Berkeley.
Senior Kate Baldoni followed up a strong performance against UCLA last weekend with an eight-save effort to hold the Women of Troy to just four goals. USC came into Saturday’s matchup averaging 15.8 goals per game on the season and had never tallied fewer than nine goals in a single match.
Senior Melissa Seidemann staked the Cardinal to an early lead by scoring on each of Stanford’s first two possessions. Freshman Maggie Steffens then added another goal to put the Cardinal up 3-0, but USC would get one back before the end of the first quarter.
In the second quarter, the Cardinal’s defense locked down to keep USC off the board. Junior Annika Dries chipped in several field blocks while the defensive unit killed off several Trojan power plays.
The Cardinal took a 4-1 lead into halftime after a great passing sequence from sophomore Kiley Neushul and Steffens set up junior Kaitlyn Lo for the only goal of the quarter.
The Women of Troy had several opportunities early in the second half, but Baldoni and the defense held strong. At the other end of the pool, Cardinal sophomore Ashley Grossman fired home a shot to give Stanford a four-goal advantage. USC answered immediately following a 6-on-5 opportunity to bring the score to 5-2 at the end of the third quarter.
USC’s Anni Espar scored on a five-meter penalty to cut the deficit to just 5-3 with five minutes remaining in the game, but the Cardinal responded with a perimeter shot from junior Kaley Dodson to eliminate any hopes of a Trojan comeback.
USC would score once more on a power play goal from Monica Vavic with 34 seconds remaining, but Stanford maintained possession for the rest of the game to earn the 6-4 victory.
The Cardinal remained in Los Angeles for a game on Sunday against No. 11 Loyola Marymount, which Stanford won 10-2. The Cardinal used a 4-0 second quarter to take a 7-1 halftime lead and never looked back.
The Olympians Seidemann, Steffens and Dries each scored a goal in the first and second quarters to almost singlehandedly build Stanford’s big first-half lead. Neushul rounded out the second-quarter run with a goal of her own and added two more in the third for a hat trick. Freshman Anna Yelizarova scored Stanford’s lone fourth-quarter goal.
Senior Jessica Morelos and junior Alexandra Honny scored one goal each for the Lions.
With the two wins this weekend, Stanford pushed its winning streak to 13 straight. The Cardinal closes out the regular season with a game against No. 5 Cal (16-5, 2-3 MPSF) next Friday at Berkeley.
This will be the first matchup between the two Bay Area rivals this season, although they faced off in a preseason scrimmage. After that informal contest, Seidemann described the Golden Bears as “very physical and strong.”
Cal is locked into fifth place in the MPSF, so next weekend’s matchup could be a preview of the Cardinal’s first playoff game. As the No. 1 seed, Stanford will get a bye into the semifinals, where it will meet the winner of the No. 4/No. 5 game.
The Golden Bears are led by Emily Csikos, who recently became Cal’s all-time leading scorer. The senior has scored 47 goals this year, leading the team by a whopping 15 goals.
The match will take place on Friday, April 19 at 5 p.m.
Contact Jana Persky at jpersky “at” stanford.edu.