This Saturday will mark the final game of another stellar Stanford women’s water polo regular season. Currently 19-1 and ranked first in the nation, the Cardinal have made themselves the team to beat once again heading into the postseason tournaments. Coming off of an impressive romp against Cal State-Bakersfield this past weekend, Stanford will have all the momentum on their side when they face No. 4 Cal on Saturday.
John Tanner’s squad sits atop the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF), and will enter its conference tournament as the number-one seed. It is undefeated in conference play, with the unblemished record preserved by a nail-biting 9-8 victory against then-No. 2 UCLA last Friday. With the top seed already wrapped up, there’s less pressure on the Cardinal to perform for sure, but this match will also be critical to both ensure momentum and continued top standing heading into the postseason.
Cal has also turned in a good season, and is ranked fourth in the MPSF and the country behind Stanford, USC and UCLA, respectively. At 17-6 this season, Cal has been dominant outside of conference play, but they have struggled within the MPSF, losing to UCLA and USC twice, as well as Stanford once already this season.
In their previous faceoff, the Card bested the Golden Bears 14-8 at the UC-Irvine Invitational. Looking for another monster game against Cal will be sophomore and 2012 Olympic gold medalist Maggie Steffens. In the February meeting, Steffens netted four goals, pushing Stanford to a 9-4 halftime lead they would never relinquish. Cal got two goals apiece from freshmen Roser Tarrago and freshman Anna Illes, so Stanford’s defense will have to work hard to keep those two out of shooting range in order to beat Cal. The freshman duo is promising for Cal and has kept them in the NCAA hunt this season.
On the other end of the pool, Stanford’s 14 goals in that last meeting came from seven different players, a result indicative of how their entire season has gone on offense. The diversity of their attack has provided the Cardinal with the depth that’s been pivotal to their successful campaign. The ability to rotate lineups and maintain productivity has helped the Cardinal stay fresh for the duration of a long season.
Coming off a huge game against UCLA with a resounding seven saves, goalkeeper Gabby Stone will be looking to ride the momentum into another impressive game in net against Cal.
This upcoming match on Saturday will be a special one. Not only is Stanford eyeing its 20th win of the season but it’s also Senior Night for the Cardinal. This year’s team has five seniors — Annika Dries, Kaley Dodson, Kaitlyn Lo, Lexie Ross and Kelsey Suggs — whose leadership has been crucial to Stanford’s success this year. Though this will be their final regular season game, it certainly doesn’t signal the end of their Stanford water polo careers, as the MPSF Tournament is slated to start April 26.
Courtesy of its top position in the MPSF regular season standings, Stanford will receive a first-round bye in the MPSF playoffs once tournament play starts.
The top-five duel to close out the season for Stanford will begin at 5 p.m. at the Avery Aquatics Center.
Contact Carlie Tenenbaum at carliet ‘at’ stanford.edu.